Behind stellar one-two punches from Toronto’s Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam, the Raptors cruised to a 122-107 victory against a shorthanded Minnesota Timberwolves squad on Saturday night.
VanVleet had a game-high 28 points and seven assists, while Siakam pulled down 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
It is not often that the two have played a wonderful game together during the 2022-23 campaign. Saturday’s matchup marked the 13th time in their 52 games together that the duo averaged 20 points each, while the 55 combined points tied for fifth most points scored together this season.
“I think we’re both at the stage where we’re going to get the best looks of the other team and get the most attention,” VanVleet said after the game, noting how the two liked the Timberwolves’ physicality. were encountered and mismatches had to be found.
“We have to keep working on those things, and again, just trying to make the right reads for this team. And I thought we did a good job tonight.
VanVleet was able to get the night going for the Raptors, scoring 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the first quarter.
Despite the hot start, the Raptors’ defense was not able to stop the Timberwolves, who were on their second night of back-to-back losses and were without their All-Star in Anthony Edwards when he was sidelined just before tip-off. I went. Closed with an ankle injury.
Siakam was ultimately the difference maker for the Raptors, as he was able to create some separation with one run in a game that head coach Nick Nurse called “low energy”.
The turning point came after a poster dunk by Naz Reed at the 3:39 mark in the third quarter. The backup center ultimately led the way for the Timberwolves with a nasty slam of 22 points off the bench on 8-of-10 shooting.
Siakam responded by scoring nine points to end the third quarter, and then another four points in the fourth, helping the Raptors eventually build a two-point lead that would end at 19.
Nurse highlighted the “variety of Siakam’s actions” through his ability to drive to the basket, use his patented spin move, create opportunities with his fadeaway, crash the offensive glass and also take advantage of transition opportunities. Lift.
“That, to me, is his recipe for a good night,” said the nurse.
With the Raptors’ one-two punch, for the second consecutive game, all five of Toronto’s starters were able to score in double digits,
The team’s success was highlighted by a flurry of stings from OG Anunoby and Scottie Barnes.
Gary Trent Jr. also provided a spark off the bench, as the sixth man chipped in with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting, while he was instrumental on defense with five steals.
Another standout in the second unit was Chris Boucher.
After scoring 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting in the first quarter, Jakob Poelt found himself in foul trouble. However, the Raptors were able to lean on 6-foot-9-footer Boucher, who put up a solid fight against 7-foot-1 Rudy Gobert.
“It was a great fight. It showed me a side of my game that I have,” said Boucher.
Saturday marked a third straight win for the Raptors in this home stretch at Scotiabank Arena after recently defeating the Denver Nuggets. Oklahoma City Thunder. This saw them improve to 35–36, good enough to clinch the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference, while for the fourth time this season they were able to put together a three-game losing streak.
Boucher said, “I think we needed this so that we can find some happiness among the team.” “It helps us figure out what we can do.”
As the Raptors end their season, the goal is to be one of the top six teams in the East. But with 11 games left, and the Raptors sitting five games behind that seeding, that seems like a monumental task. Instead, he seems to be eyeing retaining his position for a shot at the play-in tournament.
If the Raptors seeded seventh or eighth, they would need to win only one game in play-ins to enter the playoffs and begin a seven-game series. As the ninth or tenth seed, they would need to win two games – but if they lose their first game in that scenario, they would be eliminated in a do-or-die fashion.
They will look to continue their momentum on the road on Sunday night as they face the best team in the East in the Milwaukee Bucks on the second night of back-to-back.
“We have our work cut out for us, but I like where we are,” VanVleet said. “We’ve been pretty focused, you know, the last couple of weeks and we need to keep it up.”