Gameday: Raptors @ Timberwolves, Feb. 19

6 mins read

We possibly can’t sandwich two awesome wins between two lowly losses. It just doesn’t make sense but in some weird sort of way, it makes total sense. Last time the T’Wolves beat the Raptors they were without OG Anunoby and didn’t have the confidence of beating their bitter rivals twice on their own court, so things are likely to turnout different. Then again it is a back-to-back and the Wolves have a day’s rest. Since beating the Raptors they’ve dropped two in a row to the Lakers and Pacers, the latter being a gruelling OT defeat.

The Raptors lost the earlier encounter because they lost track of Malik Beasley who went 6-10 from three, and Ricky Rubio (a career 33% three-point shooter) went 4-8 from downtown. The antidote for the latter can be OG Anunoby and for the former it’s just regression to the mean. It’ll be interesting to see if the Raptors continue to stay small and start OG at the five, or go back to Baynes matching up with KAT. I would imagine the small ball lineup is matchup specific and the Raptors go back to Baynes in the starting lineup against KAT, who he did have a fairly decent game against (by his standards). The Raptors still don’t have a straight up answer for Towns (who was 8-11 for 20 points last time) and his work generates a lot of the looks for Beasley et al., so it is a problem area which Nurse has to devise against. This also serves as a bit of a prep for the two Philly games ahead where the Raptors will have to face Joel Embiid.

Another area of concern was rookie Anthony Edwards who was a game high +14 and appeared to surprise the Raptors with his mid-range shot-making and drives to the rim. I would imagine the Raptors won’t be fooled twice. The Twolves writers are quite high on him:

One of the biggest things that stands out is his playmaking. Edwards dished out just 35 assists in his first 19 career games. He already has 34 in February in half as many games. Sure, his teammates could just be hitting more shots by chance but that may not be the only reason his assists are up.

Edwards showed a desire to look for open teammates early in the season but wasn’t quite comfortable in the role yet. It’s hard to know month-to-month where his turnovers come from on Basketball-Reference, but he’s cut them down from 2.1 per game in January to 1.2 per game in February. Not all of those are passes, but he’s playing more minutes while cutting down his usage and turnovers.

Most of all though, it’s a chance to go back to .500 against a team who has the fourth-worst offensive rating in the league (but still managed a 37 point third quarter against the Raptors). The Raptors had one previous chance to go back to .500 against Boston but came up short. A win would signify a full recovery from that dreadful 2-8 start, and add to the excitement around the team, which even the US media is picking up on:

The Raptors have more losses than wins and only the 19th-best record in the NBA. But ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) still gives Toronto the third-best overall rating in the Eastern Conference and the sixth best in the league.

Why is BPI so high on the Raptors’ upside? Is this team actually an underrated East contender? And what does Toronto need to do to start translating this potential into wins?

For starters, this group has played better than its record. Toronto’s net rating of plus-2.2 reflects a top-10 team overall and top-four team in the East. Over a full-season sample, that should result in a higher playoff seed.

BPI takes scoring margin into account, but another element of the evaluation process is paramount here: predictive real plus-minus (RPM). While standard RPM is a measure of what a player has already accomplished, predictive RPM utilizes prior performance to estimate a player’s impact for the rest of the season. It’s an integral part of the revamped BPI formula.

The main risk here is getting yourself to be up for this one after the two Bucks game. It’s like going on a kids ride after you’ve just finished the SuperDeathKillMeNowRollercoaster, and you can always trip up on the baby steps.

The game is at 9pm on TSN4 and TSN5. We’ll have the live show after the game and all the usual good stuff.




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