It’s Game 1 of 82, but it’s not just any regular season game. This start of the season represents a significant change - call it a step back, end of the “run it back” era, reset, realignment — whatever it is, one thing’s for sure: this is the Darko Rajakovic era for the Toronto Raptors.
Coach Rajakovic promises an overhaul of the offensive system, implementing the 0.5 offense that’s made the San Antonio Spurs and a host of other teams successful. Regardless of the system, Rajakovic would need to figure out how to put his best players— Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes in excellent position to carry the team on a nightly basis.
The Raptors managed to get into the Play-in last season, finishing with a 41-41 record, but flamed out against the Chicago Bulls, despite another All-Star season from Pascal Siakam and an All-defensive second team nod for OG Anunoby.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are in town to test coach Rajakovic’s system, and the Raptors would have to deal with their big lineup. The Raptors and the Timberwolves split their two meetings last season, with then-Timberwolf D’Angelo Russell catching fire in the fourth period, scoring 16 of his 25 points to erase a 14-point lead in the final frame to win 128-126 on their first meeting. The Raptors exacted their revenge a couple of months after, making the shorthanded Timberwolves tap early, 122-107.
However, the matchup between these two teams tonight will be different. Tonight will be the first time the Raptors will see the Wolves’ twin towers, as Karl Anthony Towns missed both games against the Raptors. There are also key personnel changes on both teams, with D’Angelo Russell getting traded to the Los Angeles Lakers and Dennis Schroder taking over Fred VanVleet’s starting spot.
Pascal Siakam will continue to lead the Raptors with 24.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. The question on this roster is who will be the consistent #2 or 1B that FredVanVleet vacated when he bolted to Houston. That role should go to Scottie Barnes, and we should expect some improvements from his 15.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.8 assists last season.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 7:30pm ET
Toronto – Dennis Schroder, O.G. Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, Jakob Poeltl
Minnesota – Mike Conley, Anthony Edwards, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Karl Anthony-Towns, Rudy Gobert
Toronto – Christian Koloko (Respiratory Illness – out)
Minnesota – Jaden McDaniels (Calf Strain – out), Jaylen Clark (Achilles – out)