Scottie Barnes appears to be rounding into form with the Toronto Raptors, who face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday in Minneapolis.
Last season’s Rookie of the Year has elevated his game this month, averaging 18.4 points and 7.9 rebounds while shooting a team-high 48.8 percent from the field.
Barnes recorded his 12th double-double of the season in a 130-122 loss to the host Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, finishing with 14 points and 13 rebounds. After struggling to find his shot early in the season, Barnes has scored 20 or more points in four of his past six games.
“Barnes has just decided to play more aggressively and that’s good,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “We’re finding that he can bring it and be aggressive, we can play through him a little bit, let him kind of play pass-first and if that isn’t there let him be aggressive after that and play through the low post a little bit as well.”
At five games under .500, the Raptors have been one of the league’s more disappointing teams. However, Nurse believes his squad has the talent to push for a playoff spot.
“There’s been some really rough stretches for us, and there’s been a lot of games where we haven’t played that well,” Nurse said. “But in saying that, there’s a lot of them we have played really well against really good teams at home, on the road, wherever, that we haven’t come out on the right side of a break here or there and we would’ve picked a lot of those off.”
Toronto has won its past three meetings against Minnesota, which is looking to bounce back from a 122-118 road loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.
Jaden McDaniels led seven Minnesota players in double figures with 18 points in the defeat. Kyle Anderson had 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
Naz Reid started in place of Rudy Gobert (sore groin) and scored 17 points. Gobert is listed as day-to-day.
Minnesota shot 12 of 32 (37.5 percent) from 3-point range in the loss and was outscored by 11 in the fourth quarter.
“I thought there were tons of open guys out there, and then when we got open shots, we missed them,” Wolves coach Chris Finch said. “We had a couple of right-corner threes that were great shots. We just need to step up and knock them down.”
With center Karl-Anthony Towns sidelined due to a calf injury, Minnesota has relied heavily on guard Anthony Edwards. The third-year pro has been up to the task, averaging 23.2 points in nine games this month.
The Wolves are 8-14 on the road but 14-10 at home. Now past the midway point of the season, Finch is still trying to figure out his perplexing squad.
“We have the ability to beat anybody and lose to anybody, and that’s pretty scary as a coach,” Finch said.
Minnesota’s search for consistent play continues against Toronto guard Fred VanVleet, who has averaged 36 points over his last two games. The Raptors have also received a boost from center Pascal Siakam over the past month. The seventh-year pro has averaged 27.1 points in his past 16 games.
Siakam recorded a triple-double in Toronto’s last matchup against Minnesota, recording 12 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists in the Raptors’ 125-102 home win on March 30, 2022.
–Field Level Media