Player grades from Minnesota Timberwolves' road loss to Raptors

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TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 10: Pascal Siakam #43 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles the ball as Josh Okogie #20 of the Minnesota Timberwolves defends. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Timberwolves gave the defending champions all they could handle, but ultimately fell to the Toronto Raptors in D'Angelo Russell's Wolves debut.

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On Saturday, the Minnesota Timberwolves dropped 81 first-half points and 142 total points on the a top-5 defense in the LA Clippers.

On Monday in Toronto, the Wolves scored 75 points in the first half against the league's No. 2 defense -- the most the Raptors have given up in any half this year -- before being unable to keep pace after halftime.

Clearly, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse implored his team to ratchet up the defensive intensity in the second half, as his squad appeared fully consumed by creating as many deflections and grabbing as many offensive rebounds as possible. For as hard as the Wolves played, the Raptors were absolutely the aggressors in the second half, adopting a strategy that looked something like, "well, they can't call everything a foul".

The swarming defense didn't hinder the Raptors' ability to play knock-down, ultra-efficient offense, either, as they finished the game an incredible 17-of-33 (51.5 percent) from beyond the arc. The Wolves were good from there, too: 18-of-40 (45 percent) is a mark that Ryan Saunders and the coaching staff will gladly take night-in and night-out.

But the Raptors' offensive efficiency, combined with nine offensive rebounds -- all of which sure seemed to be especially timely -- and a defense that nabbed 15 steals, was enough to surge ahead on the back of an 11-0 run in the midst of the third quarter.

Other than a quick push early in the final frame that pulled the Wolves as close as two points, Toronto mostly controlled proceedings in the second half.

The biggest issue was the turnovers. While the Raptors committed 18 turnovers of their own, Minnesota only ended up with six steals. Many of the Toronto miscues were passes out of bounds, offensive fouls, and plays that resulted in a dead ball. Of the Wolves' 23 turnovers, 15 of them were live-ball steals by the Raptors, which obviously have a much greater chance of ending in easy transition buckets on the other end.

The Wolves defense wasn't awful, the Raptors were simply that good. And the Wolves played hard throughout, again showing an ultra-dynamic offense and much improved 3-point shooting.

Things don't get much harder than the Clippers and a road game against the Raptors in consecutive games. Next up, a very winnable date with the Hornets on Wednesday night at Target Center.

Player Grades

Karl-Anthony Towns

Center | Minnesota Timberwolves
Karl-Anthony Towns once again flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. He shot 5-of-13 from the field, making 3-of-6 attempts from deep and only 2-of-7 inside the arc. Towns didn't get many post touches and also didn't get many foul calls in the paint, although he ultimately shot 10-of-12 from the free throw line. At this stage, Towns appears to be comfortable distributing as much or more as he's shooting the ball, although it would behoove the Wolves to get him more touches in the flow of the offense that could lead to more efficient scoring opportunities.

D'Angelo Russell

Guard | Minnesota Timberwolves
D'Angelo Russell was awesome early, but reached his final point total of 22 points before the midway point of the third quarter and struggled with turnovers in the final frame. His final line of 22 points (7-12 FG, 4-5 3P, 4-4 FT), five assists, a steal, zero rebounds and six turnovers isn't far off from what to expect on a nightly basis: efficient scoring with some high-risk passing. Russell was also a team-worst -22 in the plus-minus column; his defense was fine early in the game, even stripping the ball from the Raptors on consecutive possessions and walling up nicely in the paint more than once. But in the fourth quarter, the Raptors took advantage of Russell on that end of the floor, beating him one-on-one with regularity.

Malik Beasley

Wing | Minnesota Timberwolves
Malik Beasley was good in this one, although he didn't get nearly as many opportunities with Russell on the floor as he did in the star point guard's absence last time out. Beasley still reached double-figures in the third quarter, however, and dropped 15 points on 12 shots in 32 minutes. He also had four rebounds, two assists and a steal and committed four turnovers.

Juancho Hernangomez

Forward | Minnesota Timberwolves
Juancho Hernangomez was really good on both ends of the floor. He had 15 points (6-11 FG, 2-4 3P, 1-2 FT), 5 rebounds, an assist and only one turnover in 26 minutes. His ability to switch and guard multiple positions with solid results was on full display. If he continues to show that he can handle rebounding at the 4 over long stretches, Hernangomez should see his playing time increase over the final 30 games of the season.

Josh Okogie

Wing | Minnesota Timberwolves
Josh Okogie was active early, crashing the glass on both ends of the floor and at least wreaking a bit of havoc. He finished with nine points and three rebounds in 23 minutes. Okogie did, however, underscore his role as the weak link in the Wolves' perimeter attack, going 3-of-3 on 2-point attempts but 0-of-3 from beyond the arc on the night.

James Johnson

Forward | Minnesota Timberwolves
James Johnson had another awesome first-half off the bench for the Wolves. His final line of eight points, seven rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes looks nice, but he did have a rough stretch late in the game with the Wolves hanging within only a possession or two. Johnson forced the action a bit and committed a couple of bad turnovers and took a couple of wild shots as well. Overall, however, Johnson is going to be a key bench contributor for the new-look Wolves with the ability to guard multiple positions and knock down open 3-point attempts.

Jarrett Culver

Wing | Minnesota Timberwolves
Jarrett Culver was really good, ultimately putting up 15 points (5-11 FG, 2-4 3P, 3-4 FT), three rebounds, a steal, a block and only one turnover in 21 minutes. He hit his first two 3-point attempts and appears to have not lost any confidence despite having his role reduced in the wake of the new acquisitions. Culver is going to remain part of the rotation, and games like this are exactly what the Wolves need out of the rookie.

Other Players

Allen Crabbe played 16 minutes off the bench, and after only shooting the ball twice in 17 minutes last time out, he launched eight shots, making three of them and 2-of-6 from behind the arc. He finished with eight points and three rebounds.

Jordan McLaughlin had three points on 1-of-3 shooting, bricking both of his 3-point attempts badly. J-Mac was hit in the mouth in the first half and required five stitches at halftime, but still managed to contribute five assists, two assists and a block with only one turnover in 16 minutes. The Wolves were a +11 with McLaughlin on the court, compared to -22 when Russell was in the game.

Naz Reid was the backup center, playing 10 minutes behind Towns and scoring eight points on five shots while pulling down three rebounds.

Next: What the Wolves can expect from D'Angelo Russell

Up Next

The Wolves play host to the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. CT. The Wolves beat the Hornets in Charlotte back in the second game of the season, with Towns dropping 37 points and 15 rebounds in the matchup.