Playing a team with three fewer wins coming in (a rare thing this season and against a franchise the Raptors had bested on 12-straight occasions — and with the best chance to end a 10-game losing streak they will get in a while), the Raptors could not find their offensive game and fell 103-87.
The shooting was horrendous — “I’ve never been in a game where you miss 67 shots,” said head coach Jay Triano when it mercifully was over — and Kevin Love notched his 33rd double-double in a row as the 13-32 Raptors dropped their 11th in a row and 17th in 20 games.
The Wolves finished 10% better from the field than Toronto and hit 11 threes to Toronto’s three.
This is the worst stretch for the Raptors, since they lost 12-straight Dec. 18, 2002-Jan. 10, 2003 and even back then, losing by nearly 20 points to a team that had dropped 12-of-13 coming in wasn’t part of the equation.
Frustration is mounting, but the young Raptors appear to be battling through it.
“It’s tough, but in life you deal with adversity, you roll with it, so I’m just taking it as a learning experience,” said rookie Ed Davis, the only Raptor to play a good game — according to Andrea Bargnani — with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
It might not have been the worst game of either DeMar DeRozan or Bargnani’s career, but collectively, it certainly was. The team’s two top scorers combined for 21 points, missing 28-of-35 attempts.
“It just seems like we can’t get nothing to go our way,” DeRozan said of the Raptors, who were coming off an overtime loss to Milwaukee on Friday night.
“But you’ve got to go through the tough times to get to the good times.”
“I think (DeRozan’s) developed extremely well, he’s really started to take off,” head coach Jay Triano responded to a query from a Minnesota reporter.
The Wolves had two high picks in the 2009 draft and showed considerable interest in DeRozan, before opting for point guards Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn.
“He’s become our go-to-guy, the guy we put a lot of faith, a lot of trust in with the basketball,” Triano continued.
“It started last year in the summer league and it’s been accelerated because of the injuries we’ve had.
“He’s getting to the hole and getting more consistent with his jump shot.”
And as the Raptors dragged themselves out of the Target Center locker room, headed to Indianapolis and a Monday night date with the Pacers, the frustration and anger were palpable.
Players sat with heads down, staring at the floor, and there was practically a funeral-like feeling to the room as they wallowed once again in defeat.
“Of course, it’s a bad atmosphere, that’s obvious,” said Bargnani, who was 5-for-24 from the floor and had just 15 points. “Nobody likes to lose so many games, everybody’s upset.
“We shot the ball terrible, everybody. Ed (Davis) played a good game and at the end he was the only one that did something but the game was long gone.
“Offensively we were terrible; you can’t win like this, obviously.”
But answers? There are none.
“That’s the only way, you have to keep working. What can you do?” wondered Bargnani.
The missed shots — Toronto got up a season-high 101 field goal attempts and made just 34 — led to a crises of confidence that engulfed the team. When the going got tough, it appeared the Raptors didn’t show the level of grit and determination they have so many times this season.
Coach Jay Triano didn’t exactly share the sentiment — but did finally admit that the poor shooting got into the players’ heads.
“I think the confidence was down but we just didn’t make shots,” he said. “We held this team to 43 per cent shooting, defensively we did some pretty decent things but I’ve never been in a game where you miss 67 shots. We (took) over 100 shots. We just had a hard time making shots in this game.”
And it was impossible to overcome.
“The confidence thing gets on you a little bit there,” said Triano.
“But to battle this team, as good as they are on the glass, to about the same (Minnesota held just a 54-52 advantage in rebounds), to have more offensive rebounds than them (19-8), I thought we battled pretty good. But the bottom line is we have to make shots at some time, and nobody could get any rhythm at any time.”
Minnesota ended a six-game losing streak, holding Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan to a combined 7 for 35. With 20-plus points in five of his previous seven games, DeRozan had his lowest output since Dec. 10, thanks much to Corey Brewer’s harassment and help from the big men underneath.
“It’s the NBA. Everybody gets scouted. They play you different ways, and that’s what happened,” DeRozan said.
Love had 11 points in the first quarter and followed Jonny Flynn’s consecutive 3-pointers with a swish from behind the arc of his own to stretch Minnesota’s lead to 45-32 late in the second quarter. The Wolves wound up with their second-biggest margin of victory this season.
“Bottom line: You’ve got to end up making shots at some point,” Triano said. “We had nobody who could get going. Nobody who could get any rhythm at all.”
Well, maybe Ed Davis, who finished with 15 points on 7 for 10 shooting with a late flurry.
“He was the only one that did something. But the game was long gone,” Bargnani said. “Offensively, we were terrible. We can’t win like this.”
Bargnani was hindered by a team effort from the Timberwolves, too.
“We just took him out of his comfort zone,” Love said. “He wanted to post up right on the block but we pushed him out to 15, 18 feet. He tried to back us down from there, but we forced him into a lot of tough turnaround jump shots, a lot of fadeaways.”
Said coach Kurt Rambis: “You don’t want to allow guys to come in and gain confidence and find a rhythm to their games. That’s something that we’re trying to focus on with their guys, to try to take their key guys out of the game as much as possible.”
Kevin Love produced his 33rd consecutive double-double with a 21-point, 12-rebound night that helped him forgot about Friday’s loss, when Jazz forward Paul Millsap torched him for 30 points.
"Last night was the worst I’ve played on defense all year," Love said. "I don’t know what it was. I just couldn’t get to him. He just kept curling around screens — something I’m not used to — and knocking down shots, getting to the free-throw line, running the floor. I was really upset with how I played on defense.
"So I had to step up tonight, get a few charges, contest shots and play a lot better on the defensive end. It wasn’t just me. It was everybody else."
Flynn committed as many turnovers as he had assists (six each) in 18 minutes on Friday in Salt Lake City, while Webster scored seven points in 21 minutes off the bench.
On Saturday, Flynn answered with a 10-point, eight-assist, six-rebound, two-turnover night, and Webster’s 15-point night was his first double-digit scoring game since Jan. 13 against Washington.
Rambis used the term "rhythm" to describe both of them after the game.
The Timberwolves selected point guardsRicky Rubio and Jonny Flynnconsecutively in the 2009 NBA draft, a duplication that started the national perception basketball boss David Kahncollects point guards like some NBA executives gather cufflinks.
One player — and position — Kahn bypassed in that draft: Southern California shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, who arrived at Target Center on Saturday with Toronto.
Rubio remains in Spain, and his arrival someday in Minnesota — despite Kahn’s assurances — is not nearly guaranteed. Flynn is struggling mightily through a second NBA season that started six weeks late because of July hip surgery. Meanwhile, the Wolves continue to search for a true shooting guard.
DeRozan entered Saturday averaging 23.1 points in his previous seven games, but he made only two of 11 shots and scored six points in the Wolves’ 103-87 victory.
For the first time in 16 days, the Wolves (11-36) held an opponent below 100 points. Toronto’s 87 points were the fewest for a Wolves opponent since Kim Kardashian was in Target Center to see boyfriend Kris Humphries and the New Jersey Nets put 88 on the scoreboard on Jan. 1. Toronto also was limited to 33.7 percent shooting, a season low for a Wolves opponent.
Coach Kurt Rambis has been disappointed with his team’s defensive effort the past two weeks. During the six-game losing streak, the Wolves had given up an average of 117
points. With an unheralded team such as Toronto, the Wolves got a chance to rectify some issues.
"We were making them work for the most part," Rambis said. "I was very pleased with how our guys played. They were very mindful in terms of controlling the pace and tempo. Toronto is a team that gets an awful lot of fast-break opportunities, so we didn’t want to put them in the open court."
Toronto had only 13 fast-break points and was limited to 13 baskets in the first half. All the Wolves had to do was manage things in the second half. They led by 21 points at the end of the third quarter and by as many as 28 in the fourth.
For one of the few times this season, the Wolves were able to put a complete game together — despite having only one starter score in double figures. Kevin Love had 21 points and 12 rebounds and didn’t play in the fourth quarter.
In fact, the entire starting five, including Michael Beasley, Darko Milicic, Corey Brewer and Luke Ridnour, sat out the final period, giving Webster and Jonny Flynn a rare opportunity for extended minutes.