Raptors topple Timberwolves
For the Toronto Raptors, nothing shakes a lengthy skid like a tilt with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Joey Graham matched his career high with 24 points as the visiting Raptors snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 110-102 victory over Timberwolves at the Target Center on Tuesday night.
Graham scored 11 of Toronto's first 15 points and he didn't stop there, pulling down six rebounds, doling out three assists and blocking three shots.
The Raptors have won nine straight meetings with the Timberwolves, who were led by Randy Foye's career-high 33 points.
The Timberwolves closed out the first half on a 15-0 run to lead 48-41 at the intermission, and they retained a seven-point advantage through three quarters.
But sparked by veteran centre Jermaine O'Neal, the Raptors outscored them 37-22 in the fourth.
With Timberwolves centre Al Jefferson sidelined for the rest of the season with a torn ACL, O'Neal simply overpowered rookie Kevin Love with 10 points in the final four minutes.
"Kevin Love is going to be a great player, but I didn't know how he was going to be able to handle Jermaine," Raptors interim head coach Jay Triano said. "We were going to try to look at putting it inside against him."
O'Neal, a six-time all-star hampered by knee problems, finished with 22 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks, and has scored at least 20 points in four of the past five games he has played.
"We're a lot better team when we move the ball and get everybody involved," he said.
Jason Kapono contributed 18 points in 22 minutes off the bench for Toronto, a point total equalled by Andrea Bargnani.
Jose Calderon chipped in with 11 points and nine assists, while Jamario Moon had 11 points and nine boards.
The Raptors were without all-star forward Chris Bosh, who missed a third straight game because of a sprained right knee.
"With Chris out, we need someone else to step up and provide points," Triano said.
'We're a better team than them'
Ryan Gomes scored 17 points for the Timberwolves, followed by Love with 15 points.
Rodney Carney and Mike Miller each had 12 points, and Sebastian Telfair 11 points.
"We're upset because we felt as though we're a better team than them, even without Al," Foye said. "If we could have gotten a couple of stops here and there, that could have been our game."
Minnesota led by as much as 13 before Toronto trimmed the deficit to three.
Kapono scored on a pair of three-point baskets late in the third and completed a rare four-point play to slice it to 80-77 with 10:44 left in the fourth, but he paid the price as a leaping Carney landed on his right foot.
"I come in the game and I automatically just try to make an impact and try to find my shot," Kapono said. "I'm not trying to force shots.
"But I'm definitely looking for my shot. I think guys sense that, and we're just a much better team when everyone has that mindset."
Kapono shook it off and stayed in the game, which swiftly turned in Toronto's favour.
Graham later hit a short jump shot to put the Raptors ahead 84-82, but Miller responded with a three-point basket on the ensuing possession as the shot clock expired.
With six minutes left, Graham scored on a splendid spin move in the paint and converted a free throw to knot it 89-89.
Bargnani went to work after that, pulling up for a jumper and nailing a three-pointer to make it 94-89 with five minutes to go.
After Telfair replied with a layup, O'Neal drained two free throws and banked a shot off the glass to extend Toronto's lead to 98-91 with a little over three minutes remaining.
But the Timberwolves refused to fold and, trailing by eight points with 90 seconds left, Foye tried to trade baskets with O'Neal, beginning with a layup that shaved it to 102-96.
O'Neal answered back with a turnaround jumper from the heart of the key and a driving layup, while Foye tallied from the line and sandwiched a basket between four free throws from Calderon.
O'Neal then blocked Foye's shot to preserve the margin of victory with 11.1 seconds remaining.
With files from the Canadian Press