TORONTO – The victories at the Air Canada Centre keep coming for the Toronto Raptors.
DeMar DeRozan poured in 31 points to lift the Raptors to a 114-105 victory over Minnesota on Wednesday, tying a franchise record with their ninth consecutive win at home.
But there no was no pause for celebration for a team focused on a strong showing in the post-season. Coach Dwane Casey’s mantra all season has been: we haven’t done anything yet.
“Just like tonight, we’ve got to move on from it, understand that we’ve got a bigger task each day that we do get closer to the playoffs,” DeRozan said. “It’s about us continuing to get better, figuring out ways to win games, when things aren’t going our way, stay composed and keep learning, never be satisfied with anything.”
According to Elias, the Raptors have won 17 games in a 20-game span for the first time in franchise history, and have the best record in the Eastern Conference during the stretch.
Kyle Lowry scored 21 points, while Cory Joseph had 18 points off the bench. Jonas Valanciunas chipped in with 14 points and seven rebounds for Toronto (38-18).
The Raptors victory spoiled Andrew Wiggins’ homecoming. The reigning NBA rookie of the year from Vaughan, Ont., who had celebrated his 21st birthday a night earlier with family and friends in Toronto, led the T’Wolves (18-40) with 26 points. Gorgui Dieng added 21.
The last time the Raptors had won nine in a row at home was way back in 1999 (March 7- April 4).
The Timberwolves seemed like they were ripe for the picking, having lost their previous 13 of 14 games on the road, and 11 straight in Toronto. They’ve only won four of their 21 games in Toronto.
The last time these teams met, however, in their last game before the NBA all-star break, the Raptors coughed up an 18-point lead en route to a 117-112 loss.
Toronto was looking for payback, and led by as many as many 12 points in the first half, but couldn’t shake the young T’Wolves.
The game got heated in the second half, and when Terrence Ross was called for an offensive foul on Tyus Jones, his angry reaction earned him two technical fouls and he was ejected from the game with 1:48 to play in the third.
“The game was really emotional, it’s going to happen to the best of us,” DeRozan said of Ross. “Everybody’s going to have that: wake up on the wrong side of their bed, whatever it may be. That’s not him, but we all have our days.”
The Raptors went into the fourth quarter with a slim 87-86 lead.
A put-back dunk by reigning NBA slam dunk champion Zack LaVine tied the game with 3:48 to play, but Toronto’s all-stars Lowry and DeRozan drilled consecutive three-pointers, putting the Raptors ahead 107-101 with just under two minutes to play.
Lowry and DeRozan would sink another pair of threes in the final minute to seal the deal for Toronto, and send the capacity crowd of 19,800 fans home happy.
“We just keep competing and we stick with our principles, making sure at the end of the day we stick with the things we know how to do defensively. Our defence will always start our offence and for the time being we continue to grow defensively and get better.”
The Raptors’ bench was solid in the victory, outscoring Minnesota’s 40-25.
Wiggins scored Minnesota’s first five points of the game as the T’Wolves raced out to a nine-point lead. The Raptors ended the first quarter on a 27-9 run to take a 37-28 lead into the second.
Toronto stretched its lead to 12 points early in the third, but the Timberwolves responded and a step-back jumper by Wiggins tied it up at 58-58 with just under a minute to go before halftime. Joseph hit a three with seven seconds on the clock to send the Raptors into the dressing room at halftime up 61-58.
Minnesota opened the third with a 9-0 run to take a six-point lead, but the Raptors tied it up on a dunk by Bismack Biyombo with 5:41 to play in the quarter.
© 2016 The Canadian Press