Jan 17, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic (14) is blocked by Toronto Raptors center Amir Johnson (15) at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Raptors 94 - Minnesota T'wolves 89: Defense rules

The Toronto Raptors expected to be in a slugfest against the beefy Timberwolves from Minnesota, and that’s exactly what they got. Fortunately the Raps, though struggling on offense, were in the faces of Minny players all night. In a game with little flow either way, the T’wolves didn’t approach their normal scoring rate, and the Raps were able to gut out a victory.

Jan 17, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio (9) tries to get past Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) during the game at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Lowry was the rain-maker on this night. Not only did he lead both teams in scoring with 24, several of his dramatic 3-balls splashed at just the right times to keep his team from going into a funk. Kyle was 6 of 9 from distance, including a crazy super-deep bucket in Q3 with no time left on the shot clock and Kevin Love in his face. His corner 3-ball with 14 seconds remaining was the final dagger. DeMar DeRozan was bothered by Corey Brewer, and needed 17 shots to make 5 baskets. He managed 5 each of assists and rebounds. Terrence Ross hit just one 3-ball, but got into the paint nicely, scoring 16. His defense continued on its upward track, as he is getting adept at tipping passes, and is quick enough to dance around picks and stay with his man. Jonas Valanciunas came to play. He pulled down 11 boards, all of them contested by the big T’wolves. I was worried Nikola Pekovic would annihilate his much younger fellow European, but JV stood his ground again and again. Pekovic had a mere 13 points. Kevin Love’s 16 points was well below his season average, as various Raps made sure he had no space. Amir Johnson returned from the dead to score 19 points, though pulling down only 2 boards was disconcerting. Chuck Hayes, in much less time, grabbed 9. The other members of the second unit were non-factors, except for Patrick Patterson, who had 11 points. (Yes, I know Greivis Vasquez had 5 assists, and several of them were dandy plays, but he’s got to start making shots.)

Minnesota won’t win many games going 3 of 18 from distance, and it is to the Raps’ credit that many of those misses were contested. The Raps didn’t bring their A game, but chalked up a victory anyway.

Toronto will attempt to extend its 6-game home winning streak on Sunday afternoon against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Putbacks: John Salmons went down with back spasms in Q2, and didn’t return for the second half…. This was Canadian Forces Night, so the Raptors wore their camouflage uniforms, and the sell-out crowd was dotted with members of our military.

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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