I had the fortune of covering Wednesday tonight’s Toronto Raptors game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Air Canada Centre (a game also attended by actor Anthony Mackie). The game represented a possible “trap” for the Raptors ahead of their showdown tomorrow with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The two teams are separated by three games for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Here are some takeaways and post-game comments I picked up from the game:
This was hardly surprising. The Raptors trailed early, 19-10, and found themselves behind by six early in the third quarter. The Timberwolves forced a tie with under four minutes to play. Between the Cleveland game on Friday and the Timberwolves having rallied from 18 down to beat the Raps in Minneapolis two weeks ago, there was no way this one was going to be easy.
The bench holds serve, the stars finish
Averaging only 29 points per game (26th out of 30 in the NBA), the Raptors got 40 from their reserves Wednesday. This in spite of Terrence Ross’ third-quarter ejection for consecutive technical fouls. Toronto native Cory Joseph netted 18. Once again, guard tandem DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry stole the show, combining for 52 points. They also came through in the clutch, combining for a trio of three-pointers late that broke a 101-101 tie and salted the game away.
There was a surprisingly small amount of Cavaliers talk before the game and not much more afterward. Still, head coach Dwane Casey and his team know the deal. Casey dispelled the notion of a “trap” game, while a few of his players, including forward Patrick Patterson, weighed in on Friday night’s huge game.
“For us, there are no trap games. We’ve got to approach every game like it’s important. We can’t throw our press clippings out there… We’ve got to approach each game and every possession like it’s important.”
“[The biggest keys will be] LeBron, Kyrie, and Love. Whenever their bench comes in, we have to make sure they don’t impact the game. And we just need to try and make Kyrie and LeBron as uncomfortable as possible, contest every single shot, and finish plays with rebounds.”
“I’m looking forward to the competition. It’s going to be a very competitive game. We definitely have to bring our A-game. They’re a great team and we’re going to look for a battle.”