Gameday: Raptors vs Timberwolves – Dec. 8/09

The first danger tonight is playing down to the level of your opposition, the second one is underestimating Minnesota by judging them based on their 3-17 record. If we bring the seriousness and effort we played the last two games with, this one will be ours, but so often have we seen the Raptors drop what appears to be a perfectly winnable game at home. This is the easiest assignment of the week and we need a win to start the quest back to .500, something we could achieve by Sunday if all goes well.

The coach’s quote coming out of practice is the right kind:

“Every guy on that team gets a paycheque and everybody is going to come to play (Tuesday) and they’re going to be motivated to play and we better be the exactly the same,” said Triano. “That’s why you get upsets in the NBA — teams look past games, and we can’t afford to do that. Definitely not with our record.”

Nice quote but that doesn’t excuse the fact that he’s failed miserably at bringing this team together. Everyone knows it too, Jarrett Jack admitted to it and thinks we’re on the very first step of our way to being considered a team:

“If there’s a formula [to team building], I guess we’re at step one. Hopefully we keep building. You need to establish [you’re a team] first and I don’t think we did that at the start of the season. Now that it’s established, you know what to expect from now on. You have to know someone has your back and clear the air with it, leave all the guesswork out of it. It’s everything, if I take a charge, someone is going to help me up. If there’s a breakdown or something happens, I know someone has my back on the back side.”

The Raptors clearly need to have some trust activities so they can sort these issues out. Again, not to harp on it too much but Triano’s done a terrible job of building a team out of individuals. Yes, given the different nationalities and backgrounds on the team it was going to be a challenge, but he scored an F. Not a C or a D, but a big fat F. Hopefully this is the last reference we’ll hear to these problems because they truly are disconcerting.

The amusing story coming out of practice had to be DeRozan talking about how he’s got to stop shooting jumpers and be less like Hedo Turkoglu.

Three Raptors injury concerns to worry about, Bosh left practice with a head cold, Bargnani had some “ankle issues” and Jose’s hip-flexor is bugging him. All three are game-time decisions.

All the attention will be on the Raptors’ effort level and defense; both showed significant improvement in Washington and Chicago but have the effects of the team meeting and Colangelo’s speech worn off? Let’s hope we don’t need a weekly intervention to keep the attitudes in their proper place. Minnesota’s second worst offensive rating isn’t surprising, they can’t hit the three (29th in NBA), don’t get to the line (29th in NBA) and shoot poorly (24th in NBA), but they’re athleticism does cause turnovers (8th in NBA) which kicks of their break. The Raptors have had issues taking care of the ball, the second quarter against Washington was a great example of how turnovers and fast-break points combined to let the other team back in the game. So if we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot and play an acceptable amount of defense, things should be fine.

The game thread has the pretty pictures so all that’s left to do is go over the matchups:


The Point: Jonny Flynn is the man to keep your eye on. He’s netting 14/2/4 but his explosiveness has been countered by teams giving him space to shoot. The three-point shot was a question coming out of college and he’s shooting only 32% from downtown. You can tell by looking at his hotspots that he loves to get to the rim, he’s attempted more layups than he has two-point jumpers! In pre-season he took Jose Calderon off the bounce a few times and that should serve as lesson learned for us this time around. He struggles to defend the pick ‘n roll and tends to get caught behind the screen too easily, so it’s a no-brainer that we should put them in PnR situations, especially given their big mens’ reluctance to come outside. He’s the assist leader on the team with only 3.9. Flynn is 6’0″ and I’d like to see Calderon and Jack use their size advantage for something good. Sessions is the backup PG and liable to make an impact, we can’t lose sight of him like we did with Boykins.

The Skill: DeMar DeRozan the scorer. He’s got 21, 16 and 11 in his last three games and is playing hard. Well, he always played hard, he just never saw much of the ball. The emphasis on rewarding his cuts and leak-outs has been one of the focal points of our offense lately. To the opposition, he’s the least threatening of our weapons which means they pay the least amount of attention to him. Once he gets that pull-up/rise-up working he’ll be great to watch because you know he’s not the type of player that’ll give up the drive once he gets the jumper going. Corey Brewer is an example of someone who’s only starting because he’s on a bad team. Here’s a shooting guard that plays 30mpg and shoots 17% from three. Defending him is a no-brainer.

The Wing: Ryan Gomes can make Hedo Turkoglu’s life very miserable, much like he did for Ronnie Brewer a couple nights ago when Minny beat Utah by shooting 57%. Gomes was 9-10 for 23 points and was hitting them from everywhere. Turkoglu’s defense has been improving but it’s nowhere close to being good, I think this could be a tough defensive matchup for him if Minny decides to exploit it. A weird stat about how underutilized Hedo is: he hasn’t attempted 15 shots in a game all season.

The Power: You know how we say rebounding ‘comes from within’. Kevin Love personifies that expression, he’s just returned from injury and has only played two games but has double-doubles in both while playing 25mpg. I can see him giving Bosh a run for his money for double-double totals come seasons end. Bosh had 9 and 7 rebounds in our last two games but with Love guarding him, look for those numbers to go down. They’ll also concede the jumper to him so don’t get mad if CB4 pops a couple early just to keep the D honest. I never seen a guy so upset after making a dunk.

The Big: Sharp contrast of styles here. Andrea Bargnani has a height and quickness advantage on Jefferson which he could look to exploit. It all depends whether he’s assertive or not, big men like Jefferson hate coming out to defend and Bargnani can’t bail him out by settling for the jumper. He’ll get his share of clean looks tonight and after that it’s all up to the averages of the jumper. His offense has taken a hit since he’s expending more effort on defense, Bargnani is 10-30 FG in the last two games but is averaging 8.5 boards. So it boils down to whether we want Bargnani to have a good defensive or offensive game? I’d rather he play better defense and take care of the boards rather than hoist jumpers, we have other players who could bring the same, if not better, production if given Bargnani’s shot attempts. Look for Nathan Jawai who has been getting meaningful minutes of late (12mpg).

Blogger’s take

The blogger on TrueHoop Network is Howlin’ Twolf.

How much does Kevin Love mean to the team?

A LOT! In just two games since his return Love is averaging a double-double, knocking down 3’s, is a +6 in +/-, and is making a strong case with Al Jefferson still not 100% that he is the best/most important player on this young Wolves team.

How far away are the T’Wolves from being good?

With Love back, a heck of a lot closer than when ESPN was asking if they were the worst ever. Before the season I predicted they would go 9-32 in their first half and 19-22 in the second half of the season. I know it’s a very small sample in just two games but I’m feeling pretty good about that seeing what Love brings to the team and him making everyone better. With what looks to be a top lottery pick as well as two other firsts and the cap space to sign a difference making free agent, I think the Wolves have a good chance to be this year’s OKC Thunder, next year.

Jonny Flynn, how’s he doing so far? Happy with the pick?

Even with Brandon Jennings blowing up for Milwaukee I’m pretty happy with the Flynn pick and as Rambis has started to loosen the reigns a bit Flynn is starting to really show his ability to create offense for the Wolves. His assists are up to 5.8 in the last 4 games as the Wolves went 2-2 and last game he went 7-12 from the floor and 2-3 from deep. If he can keep those type of numbers up, I’ll like the pick even more.


Raptors Timberwolves
SRS: -2.78 (20th of 30)
Pace Factor: 93.3 (12th of 30)
Offensive Rating: 112.7 (3rd of 30)
Defensive Rating: 116.6 (30th of 30)
SRS: -10.78 (30th of 30)
Pace Factor: 95.0 (7th of 30)
Offensive Rating: 97.1 (29th of 30)
Defensive Rating: 109.3 (22nd of 30)

Toronto form: W L W L L L L L W W
Minnesota form: L L L L L L W L L W


Vegas has us laying 8 and Jimmy‘s PS3 agrees to the tune of 113-84. If you’re a warm-blooded Raptors fan you have to pick them to win, just not by that much.

Some pics of the new jerseys. Please don’t but them until the team is at least a few games over .500. Buy this instead.

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