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.
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.
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.
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.