The Minnesota Timberwolves used a big second half to earn a 116-112 win over the Toronto Raptors, snapping a four-game losing streak in the process.
Minnesota was led by a 20-point, 11-rebound double-double from 2015 No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns while Malik Beasley also scored 20 points and 2020 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Edwards added 18 points and seven assists.
For Toronto, Kyle Lowry led the way with a game-high 24 points and Norman Powell continued his stellar play as a starter with 22 points. Pascal Siakam added 16 points but failed to get the potential game-tying layup to go with five seconds remaining in regulation, which, effectively ended the game.
Here are some thoughts on the game…
1. An uncharacteristic effort from the Raptors
Things were troubling from the start for Toronto as it allowed Minnesota to knock down five of its first 11 3-point attempts in the opening frame.
Thus continued a trend that lasted throughout the game, especially in the third quarter - more on that later - as the Raptors' defence failed to make things difficult for the Wolves. Minnesota, a team that entered the night with the league's worst record, finished the night shooting 52.4% from the field and 41.0% from beyond the arc.
And Toronto still had opportunities to win.
Despite digging a hole for themselves, the Raptors made effort plays late that resulted in the aforementioned opportunity for Siakam to tie things up before receiving a brutal roll on a point-blank layup to tie things up and potentially force overtime.
This looked very different from the team that went 4-2 on a challenging road trip.
2. Minnesota snaps a few streaks
Entering Sunday night, the Wolves had lost four in a row, with their last win coming on Friday, Feb. 5.
Not only did Minnesota snap a four-game skid on the season, but it also snapped a five-game losing streak to Toronto, earning a win over the Raptors for the first time in over three years. For even more perspective? The Wolves' last road win over the Raptors came on Jan. 21, 2004 - over 17 years ago.
This one was in Tampa rather than Toronto, but it's still quite the stat.
3. The third quarter changed the course of the game
After trailing by four at the half, Minnesota took command of the game with a big performance in the third frame.
The Wolves shot 15-for-20 (75.0%) from the field, outscoring the Raptors 37-25 to take an eight-point lead into the final frame. From that point forth, Toronto played from behind as Minnesota was able to hold off numerous rallying efforts in the fourth.
4. VanVleet heats up … VanVleet cools off
After scoring just five points on Thursday night in Boston, Fred VanVleet came out of the gates firing, scoring 19 first-half points on 7-for-11 shooting.
But, about that third quarter…
While the team struggled defensively, VanVleet lost his touch, going 0-for-8 in the third after a hot first half. VanVleet would finish the game with 22 points on 8-for-21 shooting on the night, a rough go in the second half after a promising first 24 minutes.
5. KAT rewrites Wolves history
In just his sixth season, 25-year-old Karl-Anthony Towns has rewritten the Timberwolves history books.
With a 3-pointer in the second quarter, Towns became the franchise's all-time leader in made 3s, doing so in the process of finishing with 20 points (on 8-for-11 shooting) and a game-high 11 boards before fouling out in 33 minutes.
BEST SHOOTING BIG MAN OF ALL-TIME pic.twitter.com/9ZhcgrF5kQ- Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) February 15, 2021
That's very impressive for a 6-foot-11 centre, and the best is yet to come.
6. Starter Powell
With OG Anunoby out of the lineup again, Norman Powell made his 11th consecutive start.
By now, the results should come as no surprise.
After scoring 13 points (on 4-for-5 shooting) in the first half, Powell continued his efficient play into the second half to finish with 22 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the field. NBA.com's Kyle Irving recently outlined the keys to Powell's efficiency as a starter and how he can keep it up from a reserve role.
With Anunoby's imminent return, those keys could come in handy sooner than later.
7. Edwards went No. 1 for a reason
As NBA.com's Scott Rafferty noted , Anthony Edwards has done an excellent job of showing just why Minnesota selected him first overall in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Sunday night was yet another example.
The 19-year-old made plays throughout the night, including an impressive finish above the rim with Chris Boucher impeding his path.
THAT'S NASTY, ANT pic.twitter.com/YeKKwoZPAu- Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) February 15, 2021
He finished the night with 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 35 minutes.
It's unclear what exactly Minnesota's future holds but with a 19-year-old Edwards, 24-year-olds in Malik Beasley and D'Angelo Russell and 25-year-old Karl-Anthony Towns, the franchise has a few reasons to be encouraged about its five-year plan.
8. What's next?
The Raptors are back on the road as they travel to Milwaukee for the first of a two-game series with the Bucks on Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 8 p.m.
It should be a good one, catch you then.
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