It was the kind of night the Raptors needed from OG Anunoby — an athletic and quick and decisive and, at times, dominant evening at both ends of the floor to compensate for an undersized roster.
And if he doesn’t have another one like it for a week or two, no big deal. He gave it to them when they needed it.
Anunoby had a career-high 25 points, a career-high 12 rebounds, almost a career high with three assists and spent time checking everyone from guards to centres as the Raptors ran their franchise-record winning streak to 15 games by pulling away for a 137-126 triumph over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Anunoby wasn’t the sole reason the Raptors won — Pascal Siakam poured in 34 points, Kyle Lowry had 27 and 11 assists — but his addition to the usual Raptors offence more than made up for the absence of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol.
“He was good defensively,” coach Nick Nurse said of Anunoby. “We put him all over the place. We put him on (centre Karl-Anthony) Towns a lot and he was doing a good job. He switched out on to (D’Angelo) Russell because of that. He was just making some really good reads.”
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who got the start for Ibaka, had a season-high 21 points, Fred VanVleet added 16 and the Raptors won easily despite getting next to no production from a very good bench. The starters had all but 14 of Toronto’s points, and four of them had more than 20.
“We just had to play hard, help rebound, just be attentive to Towns when he rolls to the basket,” said Anunoby. “We just had to help each other out.”
The game was all over the place and terribly sloppy at times, as can happen less than a week from the much-anticipated all-star break. The Raptors made their first eight shots in the first quarter, but committed 15 turnovers in the opening half and trailed 75-74 at the break. They committed just two turnovers in the entire third quarter and were up 12 going into the fourth.
The Timberwolves got within two with about eight minutes to go, but Toronto turned up the defensive intensity, Siakam was basically unstoppable on offence and they won going away.
- Sick Serge: Ibaka was a late scratch due to “flu-like symptoms.” The absence of Ibaka and Gasol (hamstring) made the Raptors as small as they’ve been all season, and at one point in the second quarter they ran out a lineup of VanVleet, Terence Davis II, Patrick McCaw, Matt Thomas and Hollis-Jefferson, none of whom are listed as taller than six-foot-seven on the official roster.
- Olympic watch: Kyle Lowry, already the owner of an Olympic gold medal from his run at the 2016 Rio Games with the United States, may get a chance at a second. The Raptors point guard is on a lengthy preliminary invitation list of 44 players that will eventually be culled to 12 for this summer’s Tokyo Games, the U.S. basketball federation announced Monday. Two of Lowry’s former Raptors teammates — DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs and Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers — are also among the finalists for Olympic selection. Lowry was recovering from thumb surgery and did not play for the U.S. team that finished seventh at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
- Up next: Just one left before nine days off for the all-star break, and it goes Wednesday in Brooklyn at 7:30 p.m.
Get more sports in your inbox
Get the Star’s Sports Headlines email newsletter for a daily round-up of the latest big news.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Can the Raptors make it 16 wins in a row?