Timberwolves 110, Raptors 118

Taking my first crack at post-game analysis, I’m happy I’m getting to do so after a Raptors win. The Raps definitely needed this game to keep their 4% playoff hopes alive – as calculated by ESPN’s John Hollinger. Considering how they finished the fourth quarter against the Knicks on Friday, it looked as though the Raps were going to succumb to their own guilty pleasure of not playing defence and letting opponents dictate the pace. Good thing they managed to turn things around in time to avoid what surely would’ve been the worst home loss of the season (yes, worse than Milwaukee).

In the first quarter, the Raps started off trading baskets with the TWolves which was a good thing considering how we started against them last time. Calderon hit a couple of threes to keep the team close and we were down 13-11, things looked somewhat promising as their guards weren’t completely destroying him. But after Love’s three-point play, a Telfair “turnstile” blow by, a couple of Raptor misses, another lay-up by Love and a three pointer by Foye, the Raps were quickly down by twelve, 25-13 and I was looking to hear a smattering of boos but the crowd held themselves in check.

When Graham subbed Bosh the Raps were down seven. After a couple of minutes, they were down by twelve again, 35-23, and this promoted Bosh to be reinserted.

After Foye made another layup, Bosh came back on offence, drove to the basket and got fouled by Cardinal. After the play, Cardinal tried to make a smart KG impression on Bosh. It was a smart play given the fact it resulted in a double-tech. In Bosh’s defence, he could have easily let his emotions get the best of him by immediately retaliating, but his maturity stood strong. Instead, the next time down the court, he pushed Cardinal from behind trying to get position for a Marion rebound. It was an interesting play since Cardinal slid three feet out of bounds on his belly. On the replay, it was a hard foul, but it could have resulted it another tech given what preceding double-tech. Luckily, the ref only assessed Bosh with a personal foul. But after that play, it felt like the team toughened up because Bosh stood his ground and gave his opponent a rare hard foul, showing everyone that he wasn’t going to get intimidated by a back-up who was looking to take one for his team by trying to get Bosh out of the game, both mentally and physically. Later Bosh said:

“We have to realize nice guys sit at home and watch the playoffs. That’s just how I feel. Maybe I’m wrong, but if you play with more intensity you’re more likely to win and you’re more likely to play better basketball.”

Pot calling the kettle black? After a nice Bosh block on Mike Miller, Kapono came back on offence and hit a jumper, which ended the quarter with the Raps still down twelve, 37-25. But that hard foul really seemed to change the Raps resolve about the game.

In the second, Cardinal hit the TWolves first shot with jumper off some nice ball movement. As the quarter continued, the Raps weren’t making any strides on the score sheet, they were merely keeping pace. After a rare Bobby Brown long jumper, a TWolves steal and a Kevin Ollie bucket, the TWolves took a 45-29 lead. It was at this point that the Raps began to claw back into the game.

On offence, Bosh drove and got fouled, Kapono came back and hit a smooth jumper. The Raps kept pace by trading buckets, but after Calderon hit a long two, Bosh continued going to the basket and drew another foul. It was at this point that Minnesota’s offence went cold. They turned the ball over on consecutive possessions and the Raptors transition offence started to heat up. Momentum had finally swung to the Raps and they made their first run of the game cutting the deficit to one, 51-50. During this run, Bargnani showed some brilliance making a tough reverse layup that he made look routine.

The Raps ended the half down by 4 points with the TWolves up 56-52 Defensive rebounding, perimeter defence in guarding the passing lanes leading to steals, and points in transition led the Raps back in the game to start the 2nd half.

The first minute of the third was kind of sloppy. Both teams missed a couple of shots and turned the ball over. But than Bosh began to lead the way scoring 6 straight points bring the Raps to a tie. The rest of the team than began to follow suit, playing tight defence, getting steals and successfully running the court scoring in transition. By the time McHale was forced to call a timeout, the Raps had gone on a 13-2 run to start the quarter and now held a 65-60 lead.

After the timeout, Foye hit two three’s to bring them back into the game down one. After a Love dunk, the TWolves were now up again, 73-69.

Fortunately, Minnesota went very cold missing jumpers and layups.

The highlight of the 3rd was a powerful reverse dunk by Bargnani with gave the Raps an 82-78 lead. By the end of the quarter, Bosh had already scored 20 points. And what was a huge deficit at the end of the first was a 4-point lead going into the fourth. The Raps continued their dominance on defence and in transition, while the TWolves continued shooting themselves in the foot missing makeable shots and turning the ball over.

Down 103-95, the TWolves showed some resolve of their own. They hit a basket and than got a quick layup in transition. Jose missed a three and than Gomes hit another jumper. The result was 6-0 point run. After a Raps timeout, Kapono hit a big three to heed the run. The Republic’s favorite opposing scrub, Rodney Carney, followed things up with a big dunk, the TWolves fifth straight made basket. After Marion hit a nice runner, Carney displayed why he’s a scrub by missing a contested three.

The game stayed close. Foye hit a loooooong three to bring the score to 109-106 for the Raps. But the Raps than put the game to rest with a layups by Bargnani and Marion, and a Parker put back after a missed Bosh 3pt attempt, a redeeming block by Bosh, culminating in a 3pt dagger by Parker (which Colangelo acknowledged with a cut-throat sign, booyeah! we pwn the Knicks and T’Wolves at home!). With the Raps now up by ten, 116-106, the game was in the bag!

It was a good win on home court against a team they needed to beat. The Raps are now 2-2 after the all-star break. If they play 0.500% ball over the next 6 games against quality opponents, they’ll be in a good position to make a decisive run to end the season and try to get into the 8th seed. Essentially, the outcome of the next 6 games will determine the whether the Raps can actually get into the playoffs, or whether they’re destined to enter the lottery.