Timberwolves try to bounce back against Raptors
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves are facing one of their biggest tests of the season when the Toronto Raptors come to town on Saturday.
Minnesota (29-18) hasn't lost three games in a row all season. After a dominant five-game homestand, the Timberwolves lost back-to-back games on the road at Orlando and Houston.
"Things can change very quickly in this league," Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "We went from winning five in a row and now we've slipped, and we've got to play with more of an edge and we have to bounce back. The games keep coming."
Meanwhile, Toronto (31-13) has won two games in a row after beating San Antonio 86-83 on Friday night to wrap up a quick, two-game homestand. The Raptors are one of the league's best road teams at 14-10. Only Golden State, Houston and Boston have more road wins this season.
The Wolves have lost back-to-back games five times this season, the four previous occasions they bounced back strong.
"We've done a good job of bouncing back, understanding we can't lose games in a row for us to be the team we want to be," Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns told the Star Tribune. "You put yourself in dangerous position for the playoffs by losing two in a row. We've done a good job so far not doing that."
Saturday will be tough, regardless the situation coming in. Toronto has won seven of its past 10 games and is second in the Eastern Conference. The Wolves are 6-11 against the East this season.
The Raptors have shown an ability to win any way, one reason for their success on the road. They entered Friday night third in the league in offensive rating and fourth in defensive rating. Then they beat San Antonio in a defensive slugfest in which neither shot more than 40 percent from the field.
"We're going to see a lot of that," Toronto coach Dwane Casey told the Toronto Sun. "We did some good things, but we also shot ourselves in the foot sometimes.
"We have to make sure we're under control, what we're doing, who we're guarding, what the situation is, time and score in a close-out game like this."
Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan scored 21 points and had seven rebounds and six assists in the win, while point guard Kyle Lowry added 24 points in his third game since returning from injury.
"I thought he had some bounce going downhill," Casey told the Sun. "I may have left him in the third quarter a little too long when they (Spurs) made a run. He normally comes out with two and a half (minutes).
"He had a lot of bounce and just like anything the more games he plays (the better he'll get)."
Toronto guard Fred VanVleet missed his second straight game on Friday with a knee injury.
Minnesota is healthy and has been winning at home. The Wolves' last five losses have all come on the road. They are 18-6 at home this season and responded to their last back-to-back losses by winning the five games on the homestand by at least 10 points.
"It gives us a reminder what a really, really good team looks like and the way they play," Minnesota guard Jimmy Butler told the Star Tribune about the loss in Houston. "And if you don't play hard and don't do what we talk about before the game, what our team looks like.
"We need to learn from this quickly and not let this have a snowball effect."
Updated January 20, 2018