Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Raptors: Odds, injuries, what to watch for

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JANUARY 17: Ryan Saunders the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves talks with Shabazz Napier. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JANUARY 17: Ryan Saunders the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves talks with Shabazz Napier. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves return home for a two-game homestand carrying a four-game losing streak, but they’re feeling good with Karl-Anthony Towns healthy and back on the floor.

The Minnesota Timberwolves may have lost their fourth game in a row on Friday night in Indianapolis, but they no doubt feel like a different team than they did only a few short days ago.

Karl-Anthony Towns made his return against the Indiana Pacers after a 15-game absence, and despite Saturday’s game coming as the second half of a back-to-back set, he doesn’t appear on the official injury report.

Other than Jake Layman, who hasn’t played in more than two months due to a toe injury, the only other player who may not suit up is new acquisition Allen Crabbe, who was acquired via trade from the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday.

This is the first game of the season between the Wolves and the Raptors, who are 27-14 and sit in the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference.

Toronto defeated the Washington Wizards at home on Friday and is also on the second half of a back-to-back. Their only significant injury is starting guard Fred VanVleet, who has missed the last five games with a hamstring injury and is officially day-to-day.

Despite losing Kawhi Leonard in free agency over the summer, the defending champions remain one of the league’s best defensive squads and remain competitive on offense. All of their best players missing a few games due to injury this season. Terence Davis is the only player to have appeared in every game, and VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, and Pascal Siakam have all missed at least 10 games. Only OG Anunoby hasn’t missed a long stretch of games.

The Wolves will have their work cut out for them on Saturday night at Target Center, to say the least.

Timberwolves odds against the Raptors

Tickets, TV and streaming info for Timberwolves vs. Raptors

What to watch for in Wolves vs. Raptors

The Wolves have struggled offensively of late, and that could be a major issue against the league’s No. 2-ranked team in defensive rating.

The Raptors lean on defensive stalwarts like Anunoby and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on the perimeter while Marc Gasol continues to anchor the paint, even at the advanced age of 35. Truthfully, Kyle Lowry is the only net-negative defender on this team, and even he has somewhat of a worse reputation on that end of the floor than he likely deserves.

With Towns back on the floor, expect the Wolves to be back to running what should be a more efficient offense. They shot 17-of-39 (43.6 percent) on 3-point attempts on Friday against the Pacers, and a lot of that was due to the attention that Towns was drawing from the Pacers’ defense.

For a team that has shot just 32.6 percent from deep on the season — second-worst in the league — it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Raptors focus on protecting the paint from Towns and Andrew Wiggins and concede outside jumpers to the likes of Josh Okogie, Jarrett Culver, and Jordan McLaughlin. But if Crabbe is able to play and the Wolves shoot like they did last time out, they’ll at least have a shot in this one.

Injury Report

The Wolves will be without Jake Layman (sprained toe), and Allen Crabbe is questionable due to an illness.

The Raptors won’t have Dewan Hernandez, who has been out for about a month, and Fred VanVleet is questionable with a hamstring injury.

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We’ll be back after the game with player grades. See you then!