The Toronto Raptors look to continue their strong road form as they travel to face the Minnesota Timberwolves in their last game before All-Star weekend. The Raptors have won 14 of the past 15 games including the last 3 on the road, while Minnesota’s loss to New Orleans ended their two game win streak. At 35-16 the Raptors sit just two games behind the conference leading Cavaliers. A win for Toronto can put them 20 games above .500 heading into the 9 day All-Star break. Minnesota have been playing good basketball of late which has brought mixed fortunes for the young side. They snapped a five game losing streak with wins against the Clippers and Bulls but went down against New Orleans in their most recent match up. The Raptors have had a strong record in Minnesota and will hope their good fortunes continue in Twin City to cap off a franchise record start to the season.
This is the Raptors’ first match-up against the Timberwolves this season and they will face the current number 1 draft pick Karl Anthony-Towns as well as previous number 1 pick and Canadian Andrew Wiggins who both feature in Minnesota’s young line up. Veteran Kevin Garnett is listed as out with a knee injury. The Raptors are still missing DeMarre Carroll.
Cage’s keys to the game
Grind out on defence
The Raptors are currently a top 5 team in Points Per Game (PPG) allowed this season, while Minnesota has shaped as a reasonably strong offensive team, with all of their past four encounters seeing them put up over 100 points.The Raptors meanwhile have used strong defence all along the way in the first half of the season, Raptors fans will hope that continues.
Back to the boards
In recent games the Raptors usually strong rebounding performance has faltered – they were out rebounded in the recent encounter with Detroit (mainly because of Andre Drummond) and face another strong rebounding team in Minnesota led by Towns. With no Garnett in the line up tonight the Raptors can aim to get back on track in the rebounding department and see how Jonas Valanciunas shapes up against other young big men around the league.
Minnesota’s Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio is currently giving out 8.6 assists per game. His on court awareness and ability to create has at times allowed the Timberwolves to stay in many games this season. The Raptors on defence have to be mindful of the weapons Minnesota posses and will have to match the tricky point guard if they want to limit the Wolves scoring options.
Raptors X-Factor: Kyle Lowry
As the Raptors only starter in the All-Star game Kyle Lowry shapes as the player to watch tonight. He has been a menacing figure for opposing defences this season and if guarded by Rubio, who is not known for his man to man defence, could have another night as he will have a good chance of getting to the basket or finding space. He is also the likely choice to play on Rubio defensively.