Raptors lose by 48 points against Minnesota Timberwolves

This season can’t end soon enough

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More than five months ago the Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves opened the season by playing each other in Toronto. So much has happened since the Raptors surprisingly handed new head coach Darko Rajakovic his first win. Five of the nine Raptors who played at least 10 minutes in that game are no longer with the team, all-star Scottie Barnes and starting centre Jakob Poeltl have been injured for weeks now and Toronto has only won 22 of the next 75 games, while Minnesota has the best record in the Western Conference following Wednesday’s 133-85 obliteration in Minneapolis, the most decisive defeat in franchise history.

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The Raptors came in as a 17.5-point underdog and that ended up being pretty generous, as the team got completely outclassed, making it 15 straight losses, two away from tying the franchise record. Anthony Edwards only needed to play three quarters to score 28 points, Naz Reid added 23 for the Wolves, who hit 20 three-pointers and shot 50% from the field. Immanuel Quickley, Gradey dick and Javon Freeman-Liberty each had 16 for the Raptors, who never led again after scoring the first five points of the game.

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Minnesota wasn’t even at full strength – big man Karl-Anthony Towns has been out for weeks and point guard Mike Conley was rested, but their absences didn’t matter in the slightest against such a weakened opponent. Reid replaced Towns and hit only one fewer three-pointer than all of the Raptors combined, while Toronto native Nickeil Alexander-Walker was steady in place of Conley with 14 points.

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Toronto couldn’t slow the Wolves from deep and was a complete disaster on offence, shooting just 26.7%.

The NBA pedigrees of the limited number of Raptors available for the game fittingly harkened back to the dark old expansion days of the franchise, the last time a Toronto team had lost so many games in a row. Already missing Barnes, Poeltl and reserves like Ochai Agbaji and Chris Boucher due to injury, the team said hours before the game that veteran Kelly Olynyk was being rested to finish the back-to-back, like leading scorer RJ Barrett who had just returned with a strong game a night earlier against the Los Angeles Lakers. Then they confirmed Bruce Brown would not be able to play due to knee soreness and an hour later added Gary Trent Jr. to the inactive list on account of back spasms. That meant Trent, who grew up in nearby Apple Valley, would not be able to get in his lone game of the season close to home.

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It also left the Raptors with a starting five of veteran Garrett Temple (starting for the first time in more than two years), rookie Gradey Dick, little-used forward Jalen McDaniels (who got to start against his brother, Jaden), top assist man Immanuel Quickley and, making his NBA debut, Malik Williams, a 25-year-old centre who had been signed to a 10-day contract by the Raptors earlier in the day. Williams went undrafted out of Louisville and played a year in Poland before a season in the G League. Williams missed all seven of his shot attempts in 31 minutes.

It was an interesting group, to say the least.

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Yet the plucky squad hung around in the early going against a Minnesota squad that has been one of the NBA’s biggest pleasant surprises. Toronto somehow trailed by only four after a quarter and about midway through the second, until the Wolves cranked the throttle and made it a 16-point game at halftime. Things would get far worse for the visitors, who trailed by 31 after three quarters.

Toronto, which has now suffered the two worst home losses in franchise history in recent weeks, as well as this all-time low, can tie its futility record with losses at Milwaukee on Friday and at home against woeful Washington on Sunday. A new low could then potentially be set on fan appreciation night next Tuesday against Pascal Siakam and the Indiana Pacers, the final home game of the season.


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