By: Dan Slaubaugh
Wednesday night, the Wolves took the court against the Toronto Raptors in hopes of winning their first preseason game of the year. Minnesota's defense had been atrocious the past 3 games giving up 116 points per contest. They looked like a team that wouldn't be able to win 20 games. It was that bad. They were in need of a confidence-booster, and they got one.
Andrew Wiggins and Tayshaun Prince paced the Wolves early in the first quarter combining for 15 points. Andrew had 5. Tayshaun had 10. Halfway through the first, Minnesota trailed 10-9. Shortly after, Bjelica checked in for Towns and knocked down a triple, which was then followed by a Prince triple. Prince, in a spot start in place of Kevin Martin (back spasms), had 10 of the Wolves first 20 points. At the end of the first quarter, Minnesota was shooting 60% from the field, Toronto was shooting 53.3%, and the Wolves trailed 25-23.
The Wolves started out the second quarter with Jones, Lavine, Muhammad, Bjelica, and Deing on the court. Toronto quickly went on a 8-0 run only followed by a pair of triples from Tyus Jones, and one triple from Damjan Rud3z, tying it up at 32 a piece. The Raptors returned the favor with an 8-0 run of their own. At the half, the Wolves trailed the Raptors 54-43. Tayshaun Prince was the leading scorer at 10 points, followed by Towns with 9 points. A familiar face in Anthony Bennett had 9 points and 6 rebounds for Toronto.
The Wolves actually had some nice ball movement in the 3rd quarter, led by a trio of Jones, Rudez, and Bjelica. I'm tellin' ya, the Euro's can really pass the ball. Minnesota was getting a lot of good looks, consecutively, which is something we have not seen this year. They were also shooting more threes, and playing great defense, holding Toronto to just 13 points in the third quarter. At the end of 3, the Wolves trailed 67-60, and were shooting 50 freaking percent (9-18) from downtown.
The 4th quarter lineup of Tyus Jones, Zach Lavine, Damjan Rudez, Nemanja Bjelica, and Gorgui Dieng pushed the Wolves to their first preseason win defeating the Raptors 89-87. Minnesota outscored Toronto 29-20 in the 4th quarter with nice spacing and ball movement.
Played well. Finished with 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Like how consistent he is. Hasn't had much of a rough outing yet. He's a much needed defensive presence in the middle of the lane.
Played alright. Nothing spectacular, nothing terrible. Had a couple nice kick-outs for threes that I was impressed with. Finished with 11 points (3-10 fg) and 3 rebounds. I'm sure he is a little juiced from the defensive workload he's had to deal with the past week and a half (Durant, Butler, Carroll).
Played very well in a spot start in place of Kevin Martin. Finished with 13 points and 20 minutes (5-6 fg, 3-4 3pfg). Was very efficient.
He's more NBA ready than many people thought he'd be. Finished with 12 points (4-7 fg, 2-2 3pfg), 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. Still struggles on defense, but can handle the ball, shoot the trey, and facilitate well as a point guard. He's also been working the P&R nicely, hooking up with Gorgui on a couple possessions.
Played well off the bench. Finished with 14 points (6-9 fg) and 3 rebounds. Hit a corner 3 which was encouraging to see given the amount of 3 pointers Minnesota was taking.
Nemanja Bjelica and Damjan Rudez
Wolves are a much better team when these guys are on the floor. Both can pass extremely well, shoot extremely well. Bjelica finished with 8 points (2-5 fg, 2-5 3pfg) and 7 rebounds. Rudez finished with 7 points (2-3 fg, 1-2 3pfg). Both finished in the plus column, which is encouraging.
His struggles continue. Needs to stop shooting early in the shot clock, especially contested shots. Finished with 9 points (3-8 fg, 1-3 3pfg) and 5 assists. The one positive shown from him tonight was his passing as he had a couple nice dishes to Gorgui for buckets.
Didn't play much (12 mins). Just like Lavine, he has unexpectedly struggled. Finished with 0 points. Maybe he's still adjusting to basketball after working on his body all summer in Cali. Idk. Just making excuses and hoping he turns it around sooner than later.
-Shot 50% from beyond the arc (12-24)
-Shooting 43% in preseason (35-81)
The Wolves next game is Sunday vs. the Memphis Grizzlies. Tip-of is set for 5 pm CST. There are just 3 preseason games left (MEM, MIL, MIL) before the start of the regular season. There will be no local TV for Sunday night's game, but both Bucks games will be broadcasted on Fox Sports North.