The Toronto Raptors begin their 3-game Midwest road trip in Minneapolis against the T’Wolves. This team has set up seemingly permanent residence in the doldrums, a location the Raps know well. The Wolves’ season was over early, as superstar forward Kevin Love hurt himself several times, the latest being a hand injury, and won’t be back until next year. Brandon Roy was signed in a longshot attempt to resuscitate his injury-riddled career, but his knees proved too far gone.
There are many similarities between the T’Wolves and Raps, one being their emphasis on Euro-League players. Spaniard Ricky Rubio, who also missed significant time earlier this season, is back and playing well at point guard. He is a bright light in the darkness for Minnesota. Ricky makes brilliant passes regularly, and is a terrific defender (he had 8 steals against Milwaukee on Wednesday). He struggles with his jump shot; should he ever start hitting with regularity, he will be a multiple All-Star. Russian Andrei Kirilenko is an NBA veteran who contributes on both sides of the ball. Derrick Williams started his career looking like another in the long list of Minnesota draft busts (Wesley Johnson or Jonny Flynn, anyone?), but seems to be figuring it out. Nikola Pekovic, a Montenegrin (I’ve never written that word before!), is an improving centre with an impressive array of inside moves. He will provide Jonas Valanciunas with all he can handle. The aging Luke Ridnour starts in the backcourt, and should be run over by DeMar DeRozan.
Better days are ahead for Minnesota. They have played well recently, winning 3 of 4, so there’s no signs of tanking, despite being out of the playoff race months ago. The Wolves, like the Raps, don’t want more kids to tutor; both teams need a season free of major injuries.
The Raps handled this team easily in Toronto, winning by 19 in their only meeting. I think they can do it again, but it will be much closer. In what will not be a classic, the Raps win 91-88.
Brian Boake is a co-editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.