MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Through all sorts of excruciating defeats with a record sunk at the bottom of the conference, the Minnesota Timberwolves have found that winning formula to be awfully elusive.
Playing defense is clearly the place to start.
Kevin Love had 21 points and 12 rebounds for his NBA-leading 42nd double-double of the season, and the Timberwolves beat Toronto 103-87 on Saturday night to send the Raptors to their 11th straight loss.
"We need to continue to do that," said Love, who called his own defensive effort the night before in a loss at Utah his worst of the season. "We know there'll be some games when we'll be lacking that here and there, but if we can keep taking the right step forward on that end of the floor we're only going to get better."
The Timberwolves, last in the NBA in defense with an average of more than 108 points allowed per game, held Toronto to 33.7 percent shooting — the lowest this season for both sides. This is the fifth-longest losing streak in franchise history for the Raptors.
"I've never been in a game where you've missed 67 shots," said Toronto coach Jay Triano, whose team went 34 for 101.
Minnesota ended a six-game losing streak, holding Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan to a combined 7 for 35. With 20-plus points in five of his previous seven games, DeRozan had his lowest output since Dec. 10, thanks much to Corey Brewer's harassment and help from the big men underneath.
"It's the NBA. Everybody gets scouted. They play you different ways, and that's what happened," DeRozan said.
Love had 11 points in the first quarter and followed Jonny Flynn's consecutive 3-pointers with a swish from behind the arc of his own to stretch Minnesota's lead to 45-32 late in the second quarter. The Wolves wound up with their second-biggest margin of victory this season.
"Bottom line: You've got to end up making shots at some point," Triano said. "We had nobody who could get going. Nobody who could get any rhythm at all."
Well, maybe Ed Davis, who finished with 15 points on 7 for 10 shooting with a late flurry.
"He was the only one that did something. But the game was long gone," Bargnani said. "Offensively, we were terrible. We can't win like this."
Bargnani was hindered by a team effort from the Timberwolves, too.
"We just took him out of his comfort zone," Love said. "He wanted to post up right on the block but we pushed him out to 15, 18 feet. He tried to back us down from there, but we forced him into a lot of tough turnaround jump shots, a lot of fadeaways."
Said coach Kurt Rambis: "You don't want to allow guys to come in and gain confidence and find a rhythm to their games. That's something that we're trying to focus on with their guys, to try to take their key guys out of the game as much as possible."
Still just 21, the speedy, flashy DeRozan has the potential to be Toronto's next true star, but as Triano noted before the game, he remains a work in progress. Raptors coaches order DeRozan after each practice to dribble from end to end on an empty court to hone his finishing skills.
"We just shot the gap and kept a hand in his face so he couldn't get nothing easy," Brewer said.
The Raptors are barely better than the Timberwolves and aren't at full capacity, with Leandro Barbosa, Linas Kleiza and Reggie Evans not on this three-game trip, but this was one of those steps in the right direction for the Wolves.
Martell Webster scored 15 points in 24 minutes off the bench, a reserve role rookie Wes Johnson has been playing better lately with Brewer back in the starting lineup. Johnson had 14 points, his fourth straight game in double digits.
NOTES: Though they only play twice per season, the Timberwolves stopped a 12-game losing streak against the Raptors. They are, though, 9-6 at home against them all time. ... Triano coached Love on the national team last summer. "He was as hungry going after it as anybody I've seen in the game in quite some time," Triano said. He can't vote for him for the All-Star team, however, because they're in opposite conferences. "I'd put him on my ballot. Is Minnesota east enough?" ... Though his statistics aren't quite as stunning as Love's, Bargnani is in a similar bind as a standout on an unsuccessful team. "When you're talking to coaches and you're asking coaches to make a determination on who is an All-Star, they're going to look at the records regardless," Triano said, "and I think they should." ... This was win No. 11 for the Wolves, but 10 of them have come by nine points or more.