Minnesota Timberwolves 86 – Toronto Raptors 105

Richard Lautens/Toronto Star

Coming off a Friday night victory against the Sacramento Kings, the Minnesota Timberwolves traveled to Toronto on Sunday and fell to a much-improved opponent by a score of 105-86. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan finished with 22 points apiece and were the keys to taking down a Timberwolves team that is in desperate need of scoring leadership.

Through one half of play, Minnesota trailed Toronto by a score of 56-47. As bad as it was to watch, the Wolves were very lucky to only be trailing by 9 given that Minnesota committed 16 turnovers compared to only 3 by the Raptors. The Pups stayed afloat in the first half by out-rebounding Toronto 21-15, while even out-shooting the Raptors 56% to 45%.

Brandon Roy was nowhere to be found in the first half as he netted two free throws – while failing to attempt a field goal – in 13 minutes of play. He even committed a miserable 5 first-half turnovers. Roy was exploited defensively by guards DeMar DeRozan and Alan Anderson, and the two opposing SGs netted a combined 23 points in the first half. Although Roy did not commit any additional turnovers in the second half, the veteran SG failed to convert a field goal and finished with a disappointing line of 4 points, 5 turnovers, 1 steal and 1 rebound in 22 minutes. The Wolves signed Roy to be their closer, and he was anything but that tonight.

Andrei Kirilenko was one of the only bright spots for the Pups in the first half as he scored 10 points on a perfect 4-4 shooting while even blocking 3 shots. JJ Barea was playing well until leaving the game in the middle of the second quarter due to a head injury sustained after hitting his head on Dante Cunningham’s foot following a nice drive and layup. It was later learned that Barea suffered a mild concussion, and he likewise was unable to return for the second half. JJ remains doubtful for Monday’s matchup in Brooklyn, which could potentially pose an even greater problem to Minnesota’s current offensive deficiency.

Nikola Pekovic had his hands full matched up against 7-foot rookie Jonas Valanciunas, and had a tough time establishing inside position on the former number 5 overall draft selection. Valanciunas held Minnesota’s top offensive weapon to only 15 points on 6-11 shooting and provided tough interior defense in his 23 minutes on the floor.

After three quarters of action, the Timberwolves trailed 79-73 and were still within reach of making a fourth-quarter comeback in order to salvage the game. However, the turnover and shooting woes continued into the fourth and the Pups managed to score only 13 fourth-quarter points compared to Toronto’s 26.

Alexey Shved scored his first points of his career tonight, finishing with 8 points (2-6 shooting), 4 assists and 4 rebounds in 22 minutes. Shved looked much better tonight than he did against the Kings, and the terrible play of Roy contributed to Shved’s increased role tonight. There were glimpses of his performances with the Russian national team occasionally tonight, but Shved was once again unable to get in a rhythm and was ultimately ineffective.

To keep this short and crisp, the only player on Minnesota that truly played an effective and complete game tonight was Andrei Kirilenko. AK-47 was all over the court tonight, finishing with a characteristic stat line of 17 points (6-7 shooting), 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and 1 steal in 29 minutes of action. AK excelled with the ball fake and similar to his performance against the Kings, is able to effectively and consistently get his defender to bite, allowing him to penetrate the lane and either score or set up a teammate with an open look. Kirilenko was about the only thing about the Timberwolves that was fun to watch tonight, and they will need to get their acts together if they want to have a chance against Brooklyn tomorrow night.