Minnesota looked slow, didn’t have any flow on offense and made far too many dumbfounding mistakes in its season-opening, 97-94 loss Wednesday in Toronto.
That was the recipe that got Minnesota run off the floor in a number of early-season contests a year ago. And the formula was equally as futile in Game 1 this fall in Canada.
Toronto made all the hustle plays, while consistently sprinting past Minnesota’s big-ball lineups, turning the Timberwolves’ mistakes into 38 fast-break points.
The good thing for Minnesota was there were positives to the fact it towered over the Raptors on the interior. The Wolves outrebounded Toronto 62-47, at least for one night correcting a major bugaboo from a year ago. The Timberwolves shot 22 free throws to Toronto’s 16.
But 20 of those attempts from the charity stripe came in the first half. Over the final two quarters, Minnesota’s offensive got especially stagnant.
The rhythm, flow and ball movement that were trademarks in the preseason and reasons for optimism that the Wolves were only going to build upon the successes realized in the spring all disappeared when the lights turned on for real.
“It’s always your fear. When the season starts for real, the ball gets sticky,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch told reporters. “We didn’t trust the movement that we showed all preseason. … We were never really able to establish any sort of rhythm with our inability to move for the sake of movement.”
After a hot start to the night that helped keep the offense afloat early, Anthony Edwards reverted to old habits of isolation. He, like everyone else, took a number of difficult shots throughout the contest.
Edwards finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds, but it took 27 shots to reach that scoring output. Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns also notched double-doubles, but no one had a particularly good night.
Shot selection was the primary factor in Minnesota’s woeful shooting performance. The Wolves shot 34% from the field and 26% from deep.
“A lot of tough shots,” Finch said. “It looked like everyone was trying to get themselves going and hoping that some tough shot goes in.”
Toronto shot just 40% from the field, and that included going 14 for 22 on the fast break.
“It was a winnable one, for sure. It was an ugly game,” Finch said. “Defensively, I thought we fought for the most part and did a lot of the things we set out to do, but decision-making on offense was the story of the game.”
Those fast-break opportunities were created through Minnesota’s bad shots, its 14 turnovers and also the Raptors’ major advantage in foot speed.
Nights like Wednesday do little to quell concerns about whether a two-center lineup in the NBA can be effective on an night-to-night basis. Minnesota still hasn’t won in Toronto since 2004 — a 19-game losing streak north of the border.
“First game,” Finch said. “We’ll have to settle into the rhythm that we know we played with all of preseason.”