TORONTO – Two nights after scoring 40 points against Boston, Pascal Siakam played facilitator against Minnesota — and it earned him the second triple-double of his career.
Siakam had 12 points, a career-high 13 assists and 10 points as the Raptors won their fourth in a row and strengthened their hold on sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a 125-102 win over the Timberwolves.
Asked about the biggest challenge of being a high usage two-way player, Siakam said with a laugh: “You can’t get tired. You can’t get tired because it’s a lot, right? It’s not like I can be out and just not guard anybody.
“So you’ve gotta guard, you’ve gotta also have the ball and try to make plays. But I enjoy it, man. It’s fun. I’d rather do that than sit in the corner. It’s fun and I think the more I get in this position the better I’m going to get.”
Gary Trent Jr. had 29 points while OG Anunoby poured in 22 in just his fourth game back after missing 15 with a fractured finger, including 13 straight points as part of the Raptors’ key 30-13 run in the second quarter.
Scottie Barnes added 17 points for the Raptors (44-32), while Precious Achiuwa chipped in 13, Fred VanVleet scored 12, and Thaddeus Young finished with 10.
With six games left in the regular-season, the Raptors continue to inch their way into a post-season spot. Wednesday’s win pulled them even with Chicago for fifth, although the Bulls have the tiebreaker, and moved two games ahead of idle Cleveland.
Toronto is looking to avoid the play-in route to the post-season by finishing top-six in the conference.
But the Raptors got off to a sluggish start Wednesday, trailing by 17 points in the second quarter. Minnesota’s defence virtually shut down Siakam.
“It was double teams, they were collapsing every time I drove,” he said. “Every time down the floor everything was open, every time I had the ball.
“So, it was just like pick whoever you want to pass it to because they are going to be open and then it’s up to them to make the play. I just figured it out.”
But the Raptors took a two-point lead into the halftime break and never looked back.
The Raptors led 109-88 to start the fourth and when Young scored on a running dunk with 6:11 to play, it put Toronto ahead by 27 points and brought the bench players to their feet in celebration.
“(The players) said he’s Thad Young legs now,” coach Nick Nurse said with a laugh. “It’s good. I enjoyed that one. It was a surprise to me.”
“(Young) has been looking kind of bouncy last few games,” said Trent Jr. “Tonight legs were feeling super good . . . he back.”
Nurse subbed off his starters with 4:14 to play to rousing applause from the capacity crowd of 19.800 at Scotiabank Arena.
Anthony Edwards led the Timberwolves (43-34) with 24 points.
The Raptors shot 50 per cent on the night, and went 18-for-36 from three-point range.
The T’Wolves smothered the Raptors 30-16 in the first half, at one point holding a 24-8 advantage
Despite 11 first-quarter points from Trent Jr., the Raptors trailed 30-20 heading into the second.
D’Angelo Russell’s three-point capped a 10-3 run that saw the T’Wolves go up by 17 points less than three minutes into the second. But the Raptors finally found their groove, and Anunoby scored 13 straight points in two-and-a-half minutes — three consecutive three-pointers sandwiched between a pair of dunks — to tie the game 53-53 with 3:17 left in the half.
VanVleet connected on a three-pointer with 0.2 on the clock and the Raptors took a 62-60 lead into the locker-room at halftime.
The game marked the first trip to Scotiabank Arena for Chris Finch. The T’Wolves head coach was an assistant with the Raptors last season, but because they were based in Tampa, Fla., due to COVID-19 restrictions, he was never in Toronto.
“He got sunshine (in Florida) his whole tenure, so that’s a first,” said Nurse. “We think it’s a great city and he’s a pretty a well-travelled or worldly guy. I think he would have enjoyed it here.”
Nurse and Finch are longtime friends, having coached in the British league together. They also coached Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympics.
The Raptors play in Orlando on Friday in one of just two remaining road games. They wrap up the regular season in New York on April 10.
On Sunday, Kyle Lowry makes his long-awaited return to Toronto with Miami. The Heat played in Toronto on Feb. 1 — a 110-106 Raptors victory — but Lowry was on an extended leave for personal reasons and didn’t make the trip. No fans were able to be in attendance at that game anyway, due to crowd restrictions the result of COVID-19.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2022.
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