It’s game day as the Toronto Raptors are set to visit the fledgling Minnesota Timberwolves in the land of a thousand lakes. Toronto (44-30) has just eight remaining games to secure its seeding ahead of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The team currently sits at fourth in the conference. Should this positioning hold up when the regular season concludes, the Raps would see a first-round matchup against the Washington Wizards. On the flip side, Minnesota (16-58) sits dead last in the West and hopes to lock in a lucrative lottery pick in anticipation of this year’s entry draft. This is the eleventh straight season in which the Wolves have missed the postseason (their last appearance saw now-veteran leader Kevin Garnett fall to the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals). It’s late-season games like these that Toronto must capitalize on. The last match-up between these squads resulted in a 105-100 victory for the Raps. Rookie of the year candidate Andrew Wiggins failed to truly impress in front of his hometown crowd, getting into foul trouble early and recording 15 forgettable points. The Raptors are fresh off an incredible win over the Houston Rockets, so the team is bound to have momentum on its side. Let’s get into Cage’s Keys to the Game:
K-Mart is a Target
Get it? Nevermind. Kevin Martin went nuts at the last contest between the Raps and Wolves. The savvy veteran recorded 37 points on 14-28 field goal shooting. Toronto simply had no answer for Martin’s continuous offensive output. So what’s changed between March 18th and now? There’s a growing sense of urgency going into this game. The Raptors have indeed clinched the Atlantic Division title and a playoff berth. But seeding is arguably more important than either of those accomplishments. Look for Toronto to buckle down on D against K-Mart. Whether it’s increased minutes for James Johnson (lol), tighter mid-range protection or better closeouts on the perimeter, there absolutely needs to be a focus on shutting down Martin.
You can chalk up Wiggins underwhelming homecoming performance to nerves and pre-game hype. On any other night, the rookie’s statline would be solid. But given his status as the new hope for Canadian basketball and the potential for stardom, Maple Jordan had relatively high expectations before facing the Raps. This time around the big rook is on his homecourt. He’s averaging 21.7 points and shooting 46.7% from the field over the past six games. It’s safe to say that the young forward is capable of a scoring outburst at any given moment. Let’s not forget his impressive on-ball defense that’s been on showcase all season long. He’s a tantalizing two-way player that will make you pay if you give him the chance.
DeMar DeRozan has been on a tear as of late. With backcourt buddy Kyle Lowry out indefinitely due to lingering back issues, the star guard refuses to let his team enter the playoffs with uncertainty. DeRozan managed a career-high 42 points on 14-27 shooting. He also converted 12-17 free throws on the night. It’s worth giving him even more looks tonight against a team that leads the NBA in opponent points allowed (106.0). DeMar was burdened with stepping up for his team last game and he delivered. Hopefully he can repeat history tonight against a much weaker opponent.
horrible reality show Terrence Ross
Same old story. The inconsistent guard recorded just five points in 23 minutes against Houston. I’m pretty tired of reiterating the same thing every single game. Just show us something, Terrence. The Raps need him to get it together before the postseason, otherwise they hold a huge liability in their starting lineup.