January 30, 2018, 11:30 pm
The road woes continued for the Wolves once again, this time losing another game that they had a chance to pull out a win. At least this one stings a little less than last night.
A loss is still a loss and the Raptors were able to enact revenge for the last meeting.
The Wolves didn’t necessarily play a bad game in this one. They were competitive throughout and had chances to win, but squandered a number of defensive stops with their inability to score on the offensive side. That’s a problem that hasn’t cropped up for this team often.
It does speak to the Raptors’ huge improvements as a team though, especially from players on their bench. Fred VanVleet, Jakob Poeltl and Delon Wright came up huge on both sides of the ball and really took pressure off some of their starters.
Of course their starters also played well. DeMar DeRozan had a very Jimmy Butler-esque game finishing with 23 points, eight assists and four rebounds and lived at the line as well, going 10-of-11.
Jonas Valanciunas stepped up huge as well, making up for his last performance. He finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds on 8-of-12 shooting. His presence allowed Toronto to roll with their standard rotation and keep the pressure on.
Karl-Anthony Towns was a major factor in disrupting that rotation last time out because he was able to get Jonas into foul trouble, but tonight Towns was nearly invisible. He took only seven shot attempts and finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes.
It’s unclear if Towns is tired or banged up or what but his shot attempts have been below 10 in five of the last seven games, and he’s certainly been less involved. Whatever the case the Wolves need to work it out because it’s no coincidence the Wolves are struggling when Towns isn’t involved.
As mentioned above though the Wolves played a solid all-around game. They shot 49.4 percent from the floor and committed only eight turnovers, while out-rebounding the Raptors.
The difference came from beyond the arc and at the line. The Wolves made five 3-pointers (on only 12 attempts) to the Raptors’ nine, and missed nine free throws to the Raptors’ four. Typically the Wolves are better from the line, especially Butler who shot just 5-of-10 from the stripe. Jimmy finished with 25 points, six assists, five rebounds and two 3-pointers.
Overall this wasn’t a terribly frustrating game because the team didn’t play bad and the route to victory is easily attainable. If they involve Towns more and hit their free throws they’ll be in fine shape. More than anything it will be nice to put the month behind them and finally get some rest days.
January was going to be a tough month for the Wolves. They played the most games in the month, while never having more than one day off in a row.
The road trips included three east-bound and one west-bound while sandwiching in three single-game homestands between multi-game road trips. The Wolves were basically at home for one long, five-game homestand and the rest was consistent traveling.
The month started out well for the Wolves and they were arguably playing their best basketball of the season. It ended on a poor note though, more like a team that is begging for the All-Star break. They still finished the month with a winning record at 9-8, but closed out the month going just 1-4.
All four losses were on the road and the Wolves went just 1-8 away from the Target Center in January. The Wolves actually played solid basketball on the road going into this month, with an offensive rating of 109.3 and a defensive rating of 106.8 and winning 11-of-19 games. Those numbers plummeted to just 106.8 and 113.8 respectively over the last month.
Despite all of that, the Wolves still sit in the fourth spot in the Western Conference, though their lead has diminished to just a half game over the fifth-seed Thunder. Up next the Wolves return home for a two-game homestand where they’ll get some much needed rest and practice time. Bucks come into town Thursday.