The Toronto Raptors emptied the bench last night to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves by 7 points. Here’s a quick clue that you are watching a pre-season game: not one Rap starter played more than 21 minutes, or scored in double figures.
Dwayne Casey used every player on his roster save Steve Novak, and all but one (Aaron Gray) hit the scoresheet. Carlos Morais scored his first NBA bucket – a triple! Angolan flags were flying high and proud. The game lacked pace, largely due to a ludicrous count of 60 fouls. The Raps “contributed” 35, including 5 each from Terrence Ross and D.J. Augustin. That’s 5 more fouls than buckets for Terrence, who is struggling mightily with his shooting.
Austin Daye emerged from the shadows to score 12 points (the team high – how’s that for balanced scoring), including 2 of 3 from distance. The Raps finally found the range from 3-point land, making 9 of 19 attempts. Landry Fields scored 9 points, missing only one shot, but his remarkably poor plus-minus number slipped some more, as he was minus-5, bringing him to minus-35 for the pre-season.
Kyle Lowry played under some degree of control for the Raps, committing only one of the team’s 26 turnovers. The Raps were credited with 16 assists. Given how dreadful that ratio is (26 assists against 16 turnovers is solid – but not the inverse) we need no further proof of the serious pressure the backcourt is under. Opposition scouts are no doubt writing in CAPITALS: Harass the Raps’ point guards – they can’t protect the ball. Ricky Rubio had 4 steals, and if this had been a regular season game, I’ll wager he would have had twice that many thefts. Ricky is like Boston’s Rajan Rondo; each is a masterful point guard who can’t shoot. Ricky was 0 for 7 from the floor, and his backcourt mate, Alexey Shved, was 0 for 4.
The T’Wolves’ Kevin Love looked in fine form, and led all scorers with 28 points. He was credited with 11 rebounds, 4 of which came on one flurry, when he couldn’t put back a missed shot the first 3 tries. [20 second time-out: Love is a great rebounder, but his numbers can be inflated when he competes against himself.]
Whether the Raps win or lose pre-season games matters not; we need to sense progress. While last night’s match was a stinker in many respects, like turnovers and fouls, coach Casey used his entire team, and the second-unit guys responded well. No player won a job last night, but neither did they lose one. The Raps certainly aren’t ready to begin the season, but they have stopped the rot.
Brian Boake is Senior 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.
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