Last time the Wolves and Raptors faced off was November 4th. The Wolves committed 24 turnovers and lost 86-105 at the Air Canada Centre. Brandon Roy started at shooting guard (had 5 of the 24 turnovers) beside Luke Ridnour as the Wolves backcourt let Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Alan Anderson go off for 22, 22 and 18, respectively.
A lot has happened to both squads since then. Jose Calderon came on and eclipsed Lowry’s playing time for a large chunk of the season before eventually being dealt with Ed Davis in a package that landed Calderon in Detroit, Davis in Memphis, while the Raptors won the Rudy Gay sweepstakes.
For the Wolves, watching Roy struggles the last time the Wolves played Toronto was one of the first wake up calls in a season full of rude awakenings. The following night they weathered a barrage of 3s from the Brooklyn Nets as Alexey Shved turned in the first performance of a “hey, just what do we have here?” stretch — he had 2 3s, 4 assists and some inspired defense on the Nets Deron Williams as the Wolves outscored the Nets 32-10 in the 4th quarter of a 107-96 victory at the Barclays Center. The Wolves followed up that comeback with a win at Orlando and a last-second win over Indiana before losing Chase Budinger and his torn meniscus (not to mention the game to the Bulls) in Chicago.
The loss in Toronto was the base of a pretty nice peak whose summit was that win against Indiana, arguably the (non-Rubio) highlight of the season.
Raptors probable starting lineup:
PG Kyle Lowry
SG DeMar DeRozan
SF Rudy Gay
PF Amir Johnson
C Jonas Valanciunas
Gay shot 38% in his first and 43% in his second month as a Toronto Raptor, scoring 20 and 18 points a game in each of those months while getting to the line 5 and 4 times a game. Efficiency, thy name is Rudy Gay.
Valanciunas is averaging 18 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks a game on 61% shooting (82% on 8 free throws a game) over his last 5 games.
Wolves probable starting lineup:
PG Ricky Rubio
SG Luke Ridnour
SF Andrei Kirilenko
PF Derrick Williams
C Nikola Pekovic
Rubio went 5-5 from 3 in the first half (5-6 for the game) as he came out, guns blazing, against Brandon Jennings and the Bucks. He racked up 12 assists and 8 steals to go with his 8 turnovers. Rubio’s aggressiveness has served him and the Wolves well — he’s averaged 16 points, 9 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 3.6 steals over the 3-2 stretch for the Wolves.
The added outside threat helped give Pek space enough to maintain his recent tear — he missed only 3 shots, going 11-14 from the field en route to 27 points. With Kendrick Perkins, Chris Wilcox, Shavlik Randolph and Larry Sanders all laid to waste, Valanciunas’ skull is next to be collected.