Wolves vs. Raptors Final Score:

The Minnesota Timberwolves were back in action on Wednesday to take on the tanking Toronto Raptors, losers of 14 in a row who were down nine players.

Among those nine was two-way player Jontay Porter, out for what the team deemed “personal reasons,” and definitely not because of a major gambling scandal for betting unders on his own player props.

This game fell on the second night of a back-to-back for both teams, as the Raptors fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in Toronto last night and the Wolves all but ended the Houston Rockets’ postseason hopes on Tuesday with a 113-106 win.

Timberwolves starting point guard Mike Conley sat this one out, as the 36-year-old has had a very full plate offensively since Karl-Anthony Towns went down last month. Beyond that, Head Coach Chris Finch still has four more sets of trusted hands to turn to in Monte Morris, Jordan McLaughlin, Kyle Anderson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker there to soften the blow of no Conley. NAW got the starting nod in this one, allowing Morris and Anderson to play their same roles off the bench.

The Wolves may have closed as 16-point favorites, but you wouldn’t have known for the opening minutes of the game. Minnesota for the second night in a row struggled to find offensive rhythm against a team that was willing to switch on the perimeter, as they had as many field goal makes (three) as turnovers, and just 11 points in the first six minutes and change.

Luckily, Naz Reid was ready to play. The fan favorite made three of his first four looks, accounting for all of the Timberwolves’ made field goals in the first seven minutes, equalling the nine points scored by a decimated Raptors squad. It wasn’t until Anthony Edwards knocked down a corner 3 at the 4:24 mark of the period — ending a streak of 22 consecutive misses from behind the arc — that someone other than Reid knocked down a shot. Most of Minnesota’s offense consisted of a few passes, a screen or two, maybe a handoff, and then a shot from Edwards or Reid.

Morris did a great job of establishing some flow back in the offense by getting off the ball early in the shot clock, helping others get a touch, and then aggressively looking for his own shot. Not only did he score five points, but he also helped move the defense around to make it easier on Edwards; Ant scored six points, but also had three assists — matching his total from last night’s win over Houston.

The Timberwolves led 23-19 after one quarter, holding the Raptors to just 7/21 shooting (33.3%) and not letting any one player score more than four points, but gave up some pretty wide open corner 3-point looks that simply didn’t drop for the Raptors. Toronto also had more turnovers (four) than assists (three) in the opening frame.

Much like he has all season, Alexander-Walker kickstarted the scoring to open the second quarter with a 3-pointer of a ridiculous pair of passes from McLaughlin and McDaniels.

Minnesota did a good job of attacking the paint in the early part of the second quarter, and while it didn’t lead to many points on the scoreboard, it did re-instill some ball and player movement that were missing in the first quarter. The drive-and-kick offense that had produced so much of the good half-court production we’ve seen from the Timberwolves of late returned at a pivotal time.

As a result, the Timberwolves put up 14 points in a little more than 3:00 of game time, highlighted by another made triple from Ant and a corner triple from Slow-Mo off a nice Morris extra pass feed.

Minnesota shot 8/12 from beyond the arc in the quarter, en route to shooting 12/23 in the half (52.2%), which was much-needed after four consecutive games of making 11 3-pointers or fewer.

Add in some nice plays at the rim defensively from Gobert and Reid, another Edwards 3-pointer which clinched free Arby’s for lunch tomorrow, and excellent defensive rebounding, the energy was back in Target Center after an incredibly underwhelming start.

Edwards and Reid combined to score 19 of the team’s 35 points on 7/11 shooting, including 5/7 from beyond the arc for the team’s top two scorers in Towns’ absence. Normally two players who live in the paint, the duo did most of their work from the perimeter, as the depleted Raptors defense did a good job of loading up in the gaps to shut off driving lanes. The Wolves scored just eight points in the paint in the half, tying their lowest in any half this season (first half vs. Memphis on 2/28).

Minnesota led 58-42 at the half, as each team had a pair of scorers score at least half of their points. The Timberwolves got 34 from Reid (18) and Edwards (16), while Jordan Nwora (11 points) and Javon Freeman-Liberty (nine) scored half of the Raptors’ 42 points. Toronto connected on just three of their 13 3-point looks, as Minnesota outscored them 36-9 from beyond the arc.

The Wolves picked up where they left off leading into the break, as Alexander-Walker and Reid quickly knocked down back-to-back 3s that ballooned the lead to a game-high 20 poinst just two minutes into the third.

Gobert took it from there. Highlighted by a big block inside, he forced several Raptors attackers to either miss looks at the rim or in the mid-range, or abandon their drives completely with U-turns out of the paint. The three-time All-Star dominated both backboards, collecting six rebounds in the first 5:53 of the period.

But the Raptors prevented it from getting into big time blowout territory by flying up the floor to create for Garrett Temple, followed by a Temple put-back that angered Finch to the point of him needing a timeout while up 21 midway through the frame.

After Edwards out of the timeout drained fourth made 3 of the game, the Timberwolves really took their foot off the gas as human nature began to kick in a bit. Ant took a bank 3. The wave broke out at the Target Center. Everything got off the rails.

But Ant talked Finch out of pulling him, locked back in, and scored or assisted on 10 of the team’s last 14 points in an offensive outburst over the final 2:39 of the quarter, highlighted by a Morris buzzer-beater that gave the Timberwolves a 91-60 lead after three quarters.

The rest of the game was just window dressing, as the result was clearly in hand, but every member of the Wolves’ end of the bench got at least five minutes of action, which was nice to see.

Minnesota coasted to the finish line to win by a final score of 133-85 and move back into first place in the Western Conference. Leading by as much as 48, Minnesota got within shouting distance of setting a new franchise record with a win of at least 54 points, but had to settle for the second-largest margin of victory in franchise history with a 48-point win.

Their 85 points allowed was a new season-low, beating the 86 points the Timberwolves allowed to the Brooklyn Nets on February 24.

The Wolves clinched home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with the win, ensuring they will have at least a top-four seed.

Anthony Edwards led all scorers with 28 points thanks to shooting 5/12 from 3, while Naz Reid added 23 points on 6/10 long-range shooting, and Rudy Gobert delivered a strong performance of 11 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and steal in just 27 minutes. Monte Morris also played well, scoring in double figures for the second time as a Wolf with 13 points in 25 minutes played.

In other news around the league, the Oklahoma City Thunder, down Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams, got destroyed by the Boston Celtics 135-100 on the second night of a back-to-back, so Minnesota picked up a game on them.

This story will be updated throughout the night after player and coach media availability.

Key Takeaways

Toronto Raptors v Minnesota Timberwolves

Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Edwards Finds His 3-Point Shot Again

The two-time All-Star found his groove again on Wednesday night, ending a streak of 22 consecutive missed 3-point spanning four games by knocking down five triples, his most in a game since he made five in the first of a two-game set against the Utah Jazz three weeks ago.

“Hell yeah,” Edwards replied when asked if it was nice to see some shots go down, before saying his approach entering tonight didn’t change.

“They felt the same as yesterday. Yesterday I had a couple ins and out, so I knew today was gonna be the day that they was gonna fall.”

It was part of big time shooting performance from the Timberwolves, who connected on 20 of their 43 fires from deep (46.5%), marking their fourth game making at least 20 triples in a game this season.

“Absolutely,” Finch said postgame when asked if Ant looked more back to normal in this game. “I thought stepping into his shot, just rising up and taking it. I loved the fact that he took 12 of them, just to try to shoot himself back into some rhythm, so yeah, that was really good to see.”

Edwards was not shy on Tuesday night in expressing the confidence he had that the shot would come around in time for the playoffs.

He certainly backed it up on Wednesday, finding major success while shooting through some rough reps that missed not only short, but short and right or short and left.

It is also fair to keep in mind that beyond his usage skyrocketing over the last month without Towns (and at times Gobert and Reid) in the lineup, Edwards has a newborn baby at home, which can certainly complicate not only sleep schedules, but in-game performance while the team is playing at home.

That might be something to keep in mind as the team heads back out on a mini road trip, as Ant put up scoring performances of 44, 19, 25, 37, 31, and 32 points (31.3 PPG) in the team’s most recent road trip.

Toronto Raptors v Minnesota Timberwolves

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Monte Morris Thrives In Extended Run Without Mike Conley

The Wolves’ trade deadline acquisition hasn’t played the most consistent role in terms of minutes and lineup combinations since he arrived in Minnesota nearly two months ago, but he has battled through that and still been an effective contributor.

Morris shined in a more involved role on Wednesday with Conley resting on the second night of a back-to-back, scoring 13 points on 5/8 shooting, including 3/5 from beyond the arc, to go along with five assists (zero turnovers), four rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 25 minutes.

“I think [Monte playing well is] definitely a silver lining with Mike being out today. Something we really hoped for was that Monte would get out there and get some extended minutes, get some run with some different lineups. J-Mac has been playing so well and some of those lineups have been playing so well that he’s been a little hemmed in on some lineup combinations, and I think it’s definitely affected him at times,” Finch said postgame.

“He’s been playing great, but just the opportunity hasn’t been there. So just getting him out there with different guys, it was good to see.”

Despite Morris not playing alongside the same group of players very often and having to consistently adjust his game on the fly, Finch praised his veteran point guard’s ability to fit in however is needed in a previously set rotation.

“I’ve said this about other players and good fits around some of our guys is you need like low-usage, high-impact guys that don’t need the ball in their hands, but when they do have the ball in their hands, they’re always making the right play and being efficient with it. So he plays seamlessly on or off the ball,” Finch said.

“I’d like to see him be a little bit more aggressive when he has the opportunity with the ball at times early in the offense, just to get to the heart of the defense. And his defense, I’ve been really impressed with the physicality with which he guards, being able to stand up guys, particularly bigger guys. But yeah, he was a huge acquisition for us, and we’re going to need him to play like this coming down the stretch, for sure.”

Morris hunted for his own shot more aggressively on Wednesday than he has in any game thus far in his Timberwolves career, and he appreciated

“I’ve just been trying to find ways (to be more aggressive)… I’ve been watching a lot of film on Mike to see how he gets his shots in the offense. We’ve got a lot of talented guys, so I’ve got to keep finding ways, little play calls to stay into the flow of the game,” Morris explained postgame.

“Today I called a few. Even if I wasn’t shooting it, it just gave me a feel for the game. Early on, I was deferring a lot and trying to find my way but getting lost in the sauce just because I wasn’t being aggressive. I’ve got to implement myself more into the game, whether that’s defense, rebounding, things like that. It’s been tough trying to find that flow. But I think I’ve found it a little bit.”

The 28-year-old admitted that he is still trying to make sure he doesn’t step on anyone’s toes in the offense in terms of his scoring aggression, but did say he wanted to leave the arena tonight with a better feel and gain more confidence in himself on a new team, and I think it’s fair to say that he did that.

So, where does he go from here?

“I think these next games, just finishing off, is going to be big for me just getting ready for playoffs. I know I’ve done played in big playoff games, so I know the rhythm you need to be in going into that,” Morris added. “So I have to be more aggressive on that end just so when the playoffs do come I’m in good rhythm and ready to go.”

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets

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Updated Western Conference Playoff Picture

Minnesota clinched a top-four seed with their win tonight, meaning they will have home-court advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs. They currently sit atop the Western Conference at 53-23, even with the Denver Nuggets, but the Timberwolves own the tiebreaker (2-1 head-to-head) and their own destiny in the race for the No. 1 seed in the postseason. With the Thunder losing tonight, they are now a full game behind the their Northwest Division rivals.

Here is how things stand in terms of the remaining schedule, per Tankathon:

1) Timberwolves

  • .518 remaining SOS — 12th-hardest in the NBA — hardest of top three teams
  • Notable remaining games: @ DEN, @ PHX, @ LAL, vs PHX

2) Nuggets

  • .459 remaining SOS — seventh-easiest in the NBA — easiest of top three teams
  • Notable games remaining: vs MIN, @ LAC

3) Oklahoma City

  • .473 remaining SOS — 12th-easiest in the NBA — middle of top three teams
  • Notable games remaining: @ IND, vs SAC, vs MIL, vs DAL

Given how conservative the Thunder have been with resting SGA and Williams, it feels like they’ll bow out and take the No. 3 seed at this point. With games against four teams that absolutely need to keep winning, it doesn’t make much sense for Oklahoma City to have their two perimeter stars push through any significant pain or discomfort if it could compromise their chances of winning a first-round playoff series.

If the chase for the No. 1 seed becomes a two-horse race, Minnesota’s two-game set this weekend against Phoenix and Los Angeles will be massive. If the Wolves are able to win both of those games, and then take care of business against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday, the game in Denver next Wednesday night could very well end up being for the No. 1 seed.

Up Next

Minnesota will fly to the desert on Thursday ahead of a highly anticipated Friday night matchup with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Bradley Beal and the Phoenix Suns, who occupied the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference entering play Wednesday.

Phoenix has been all over the place of late, including losing to a San Antonio Spurs team without Victor Wembanyama, beating the Nuggets in Denver two days later, and then two days after that losing by 25 in OKC to a Thunder team playing without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams.

The Wolves will then meet LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers for another huge road game on Sunday night in Los Angeles to cap off the weekend.

Fans can catch the 9 PM tip-off of both games on Bally Sports North and NBA TV.

Game Highlights

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