Raptors' strong finish tops Wolves

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 10, 2012 - 6:54 AM

Minnesota had its worst shooting night of the season and Kevin Love's run of consecutive games with at least 20 points ended.

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TORONTO - And so this is how it went Monday night for the Timberwolves in their 97-87 loss to the Raptors at Air Canada Centre:

The guy who seemingly couldn't make a shot -- even those given to him for free -- played to exhaustion until finally Kevin Love sat slumped at his locker stall at length after a 3-for-16 night, his knees packed in ice, his hands fiddling idly with his phone.

Another who comparatively couldn't miss -- the one who fueled the Wolves' rally from a 12-point, third-quarter deficit and propelled them into a tied score midway through the fourth quarter -- itched to play on, but ultimately J.J. Barea wasn't allowed.

"Strange game," Wolves rookie guard Ricky Rubio said.

And Rubio was just talking about a night in which the Wolves trailed by nine points early, led by eight midway through the second quarter, trailed again by as many as those 12 by late in the third quarter and then led by three in the fourth before the Raptors finished with a decisive 20-7 run.

On Sunday, the Wolves whipped a winless Wizards team by proficiently moving the ball, a welcome development noted in differing ways by coach Rick Adelman and All-Star forward Kevin Love after the Wolves played without injured Michael Beasley.

On Monday, the Wolves' lack of a scorer who can create his own shot was evident down the stretch, when the Wolves went completely cold and the Raptors rode Italian Andrea Bargnani and Spaniard Jose Calderon home to victory, two nights after they lost by 35 points in Philadelphia.

Barea looked like he could have been that guy for his team Monday.

At least, for 17 minutes he did. That was the playing time set for him by the training staff after he hadn't played for eight days because of a strained hamstring.

He scored 16 points in those 17 minutes on 5-for-9 shooting, which seemed absolutely torrid on a team that combined to shoot a season-low 33.8 percent Monday.

Ten of those points came in a 17-2 run that ended the third quarter, began the fourth and pushed the Wolves to an 80-77 lead with fewer than eight minutes left in the game.

That's when his 17 minutes were up.

"I would have liked to," Adelman said when asked if he wanted Barea to finish the game. "I had to take him out."

Barea said he knew that going in, so ... "I knew, don't get mad, it could happen," he said. "I was hot, but it happens. I feel a lot better, I'm happy for that."

Unlike that game against Dallas Jan. 1 when he lasted just 17 minutes, Barea appeared to move normally and played proficiently.

Love's long, blank stare after the game suggested he wished he could have said the same.

The Raptors stuck long, athletic Amir Johnson on Love, and he still got yet another double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds, but he struggled to make a shot from anywhere, everywhere all night.

Even at the free-throw line, where he went 5-for-10.

"Missed five free throws," he said. "That's not me."

In triumph Sunday, Love said it seemed like the long, athletic Wizards blocked some of his shots "with their armpits." In defeat Monday, he pointed at himself rather than a Raptors team that blocked nine shots.

"All had to do with me," he said. "Just missed some shots. Easy bunnies. I had a reverse layup, I looked at it like, 'You've got to be kidding me.' But everybody has nights like that. I'll bounce back. The best part of the NBA is there's another game tomorrow."

Those who play this game for 48 minutes every night always say that, but this season it's particularly true: The Wolves play their third game in as many days Tuesday.

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