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Late surge propels Raptors


TORONTO—The Toronto Raptors spoiled Andrew Wiggins’ northern homecoming with another sizzling shooting night from Kyle Lowry, but head coach Dwane Casey was not in a celebratory mood afterward.

Lowry scored 25 points with 11 assists as the Raptors pulled away in the fourth quarter last night for a 124-110 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

It was Toronto’s seventh win in its past eight games and wrapped up its longest homestand of the season at 5-1.

DeMar DeRozan added 27 points, including a nasty put-back jam over Ricky Rubio that left the Minnesota guard cowering with his hands over his head.

Jonas Valanciunas, meanwhile, came out of his recent slump with a 20-point, 10-rebound performance for the Raptors (15-7).

Wiggins, of Vaughan, Ont., scored 25 points for the Timberwolves (6-16) after getting off to a scorching start.

But it was the sluggish way the Raptors started the game—which was a tight, back-and-forth affair until Toronto took flight midway through the fourth—that rankled Casey.

“Tonight was my fear,” said Casey, whose team lost a heart-breaker to the NBA champion Cavaliers on Monday night.

“You look out there and you don’t see LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, or the Cleveland Cavaliers, the hype is not there,” he noted.

“I look out there and see talented kids; a talented young team waiting to come in here and attack you,” Casey added.

“And my nightmare came true in the first three quarters.”

Indeed, this seemed anybody’s game for the first 42 minutes. After the Timberwolves entered the fourth quarter with an 89-88 lead, neither team led by more than three points until Lowry managed a four-point play with 7:17 left.

At that point, aside from an enthusiastically-contested “three” hit by Wiggins on the next possession, the Raptors were off to the races.

An emphatic fast-break dunk from Terrence Ross brought the crowd to its feet, and they thundered again when ensuing back-to-back “threes” from Lowry and Patrick Patterson gave Toronto an 111-99 lead—their largest of the game to that point.

Cory Joseph of Pickering, Ont. chipped in 12 points on only eight shots while long-limbed reserve Lucas Nogueira contributed eight points and nine rebounds in 19 valuable minutes.

It makes sense that Casey was so nervous about underestimating the Timberwolves. For a team in the cellar, Minnesota has been consistently competitive this season.

They entered the Raptors’ game with only a -1.5 point differential on the season.

Still, the Timberwolves now have lost six of their last seven, and their bottom-five defence surely must be a thorn in the side of taskmaster head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Wiggins’ individual performance has mirrored that inconsistency.

The 21-year-old entered last night’s game averaging 22.2 points (buoyed by a newfound three-point shot), but his defensive intensity is fickle and he’s still susceptible to the odd night of woeful shooting.

But in the bright lights of the Air Canada Centre, where Wiggins received a nice round of applause during introductions, the Raptors certainly expected him to bring his best.

In the first quarter he did, taking advantage of a listless Raptors’ squad by outscoring Toronto’s entire starting lineup with 11 points, including a 19-foot turnaround fadeaway jumper over countryman Joseph’s outstretched fingertips and a blow-by baseline dunk that left Ross staring at the back of his jersey.

But he got in foul trouble and managed just 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, Casey would rather the Raptors not wait until the game’s almost over to play their best ball.

“We finally woke up and played in the fourth quarter,” he noted.

“But we can’t live like that and expect to do anything special,” he stressed.

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