After losing to the Giannis and Middleton-less Milwaukee Bucks in their previous outing, can the Toronto Raptors manage to right the ship and knock off yet another opponent who is missing their — arguably — two best players in the Minnesota Timberwolves? Can they do it without a shred of help from the bench, as has been the case for the past handful of games, give or take? Will Nick Nurse even allow the bench to get a whiff of opportunity to help out the starters who have been carrying what must now feel like a commonplace amount of gargantuan minutes? *deep breath* If only there were someone who could stop me from posing questions that seem to have been following the Raptors for the past couple of seasons! That would be nice!
Alas, there isn’t, and once again, Toronto is going to have dig deep to beat a team that was a mess even when they were healthy. Banged-up team or not, the Raptors’ lack of depth will have an impact on their ability to handle a middling Timberwolves team that is coming off a tough loss in the first leg of a back to back against the 2nd best team in the league. Doesn’t this matchup just scream “trap game”?
If they hope to avoid putting up another L in the win/loss column, Toronto is going to need Fred VanVleet to keep up his steady ascent back towards the level of play that is expected of him. VanVleet quite literally shot the lights out against the Bucks, and his ability to connect from deep has really opened up his options as a lead playmaker, when he has the opportunity to fulfil that role, of course. With defenses having to run at Fred a little bit quicker than they have during his prolonged slump, VanVleet — who is having a very underrated season as a playmaker — all of a sudden has a lot more room to operate within his game. His driving and passing lanes have an extra second of space, now, which is monumental for a small guard who doesn’t possess elite athleticism.
Coupling Fred’s ascension with continued solid shooting from Gary Trent Jr., a resurgence from Scottie Barnes, a bounce-back game from OG, and Pascal’s continued brilliance should see Toronto firmly in the mix to get down big early, mount a furious comeback late, and watch the game slip away. Or maybe I’m wrong, which I’m deeply rooting for.
Let’s go starters!
Where to watch:
Sportsnet, 8:00 PM ET
Toronto Raptors — Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr,. OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes
Minnesota Timberwolves — D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Kyle Anderson, Naz Reid
Toronto Raptors — Otto Porter Jr. (Out - Foot), Dalano Banton (Questionable - Hip)
Minnesota Timberwolves — Karl-Anthony Towns (Out - Calf), Rudy Gobert (Out - Groin), Austin Rivers (Out - Knee), Jordan McLaughlin (Out - Calf)