Mar 9, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Toronto Raptors power forward Amir Johnson (15) attempts to drive to the basket past Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love (42) in the second half at Target Center. The Raptors won 111-104. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves vs. Raptors: Wolves fall at home to Toronto, 111-104

Not a whole lot to say about this particular game, other than the fact that Toronto beat the Wolves at their own game.

Early on, Minnesota got out on the fast break on a regular basis, which is certainly something that one might assume that a slow-paced Raptors team would struggle with. Unfortunately, that isn’t a theory that was able to hold up for the Wolves, and Toronto was able to hold the Wolves at arms length for much of the evening.

Kyle Lowry dropped a 20-12-11 on Sunday evening, and although it was a close game throughout, the Wolves never were able to establish much of a foothold. The game was primarily a back-and-forth affair, and yet again for Minnesota, the period of time in the fourth quarter when Kevin Love sat on the bench was the time in which the Raptors pushed ahead for good.

As has been the story of the Wolves throughout the 2013-14 campaign, the team has been utterly disappointing with Love on the bench. Ricky Rubio’s foul trouble didn’t help tonight, of course, and a good chunk of Lowry’s triple-double production was gained on J.J. Barea. But the Wolves’ defense was again inferior, and unable to slow down what has been a generally up-and-down Raptors’ offense throughout the season.

The Wolves were able to force Lowry into a 5 for 13 shooting performance, but DeMar DeRozen gave the Wolves fits. Minnesota’s defensive rotations were again a bit slow, and Corey Brewer yet again struggled to contain his match-up. DeRozen shot 8 for 17 from the field, and ultimately put up 25 points and 7 rebounds on the night.

Across the league, the rest of the night was essentially a wash for the now-back-at-.500 Wolves. Dallas pulled out an impressive victory over Indiana, and Phoenix lost in Golden State. Memphis had the night off after winning back-to-back contests on Friday and Saturday night. Realistically, the Wolves would be more likely to leapfrog Memphis and Phoenix than it would be for both Dallas and Phoenix to fall out of the top-eight, so the Phoenix loss wasn’t insignificant.

Unfortunately, Memphis shows little sign of slowing down, and the Wolves have struggled to take advantage of what should have been an advantageous start to the home stand. Memphis will only get stronger with a still-recovering Marc Gasol, and things aren’t looking great for Minnesota as a whole.

The Wolves have what should be an easy win against Milwaukee at home on Tuesday, followed by what should be yet another chance to get to two games above the .500 mark since they were 8-6 when they play in Charlotte on Friday night. At this point, they’ll definitely be scoreboard watching when it comes to Memphis, Phoenix and Dallas. The Wolves will need to be nearly perfect over the next week if they’re to harbor any hopes for the post-season.

Love was able to post a 26-11-9 line tonight without turning the ball over, and Kevin Martin played yet another solid game in his return from a broken thumb. Of note, Shabazz Muhammad did not recieve any first half minutes, and didn’t see the court until the fourth quarter. He did play well when he finally got on the floor, and was one of the lone bright spots on the bench yet again. Barea struggled yet again, scoring 5 points on 2 of 8 shooting and turning the ball over twice in 19 minutes of play.

Moving forward, the Wolves will need to cross their fingers for some miracouls improvement from their bench. It’s still the weak link on the squad, and it will likely be what keeps the Wolves from reaching the playoffs for the tenth straight season. The odds of Minnesota reaching post-season play this season are dwindling quickly, and they’ll need a lot of help to reach there at this point.

As mentioned, the Bucks are the next team at the schedule. Tip-off is at 7:00 CT on Tuesday, and as always, it’s a must-win.

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Tags: Kevin Love Kyle Lowry Minnesota Timberwolves NBA News Ricky Rubio

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