Raptors tuning up for playoffs, visit Timberwolves
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The playoff-bound Toronto Raptors will complete their regular season Tuesday night by visiting the Minnesota Timberwolves, who will miss the postseason.
The Raptors finished their regular-season home schedule Sunday with a 117-109 overtime victory over the desperate Miami Heat, who were trying to maintain their playoff hopes. The Timberwolves defeated the Heat last week.
Danny Green, who scored seven of his 21 points Sunday in overtime for Toronto, liked the way his team played.
"If we can keep that intensity up, communicate and rotate the way we did in that fourth quarter and overtime, I think we will be pretty tough to beat," Green said.
The Timberwolves lost 132-126 to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday and their defense again came under question after allowing 38 points in the first quarter, failing to hold a 10-point lead in the third quarter and not making needed stops late in the game.
Injuries have depleted the roster and the team has had limited practice time with its new coach.
"I'll say I still expect more defensively," Timberwolves interim coach Ryan Saunders said. "I expect not to give up 38 points in the first quarter. I'm not happy about that. But there is some truth and validity to what you're saying. ... Usually the better defensive teams are the ones who have been together for a little bit and who understand how to communicate with each other."
Point guard Tyus Jones understands the situation but was displeased with the results.
"(The injuries are) challenging but that's not an excuse," Jones said. "Defense, a lot of it is effort. A lot of it is energy, talking, but at the same time it throws a different wrinkle in there with how many injuries we've had this year and how many different guys, different lineups we've had. We just got to be more consistent because we've shown we can do it."
Minnesota's defense should be facing a difficult task against Toronto.
The Raptors tied a franchise-record Sunday with their eighth straight game scoring at least 110 points. Toronto is averaging 116.4 points and shooting 48.9 percent from the field during that span.
Norman Powell has been a force coming off the bench for the Raptors, which should be a good sign for the playoffs. He matched his season best with 23 points Sunday.
"Norm is going to be involved for sure," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said, "There's a lot of ways it could shape up, he could be the sixth guy one night, ninth guy another night, seventh guy one night. ... He's an athlete, so he can make some high-level, high-energy plays. He's really believing in his shooting."
The Raptors were 32-9 at home during the regular season. They are 3-1 in April and have won six for their past seven games overall.
Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns, who scored 17 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter Sunday, should be a challenge for the Raptors.
Toronto center Marc Gasol, who had eight points, 10 rebounds and seven assists Sunday, said aggressiveness is vital.
"The guards did a great job (in the fourth quarter and overtime Sunday) of getting into the ball and being more aggressive," Gasol said. "That allows us, as bigs, to make a different read and kind of read whatever the ball is trying to do, and talk and communicate about what's going to happen."
--Field Level Media
Updated April 8, 2019