J.J. Barea provides spark, but Timberwolves run out of gas in Toronto
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The Minnesota Timberwolves blew a great opportunity to win their second road game in as many nights, battling back from a 12-point deficit to tie Monday's game at 80 before the Toronto Raptors pulled away for a 97-87 victory.
Road-weary legs began to show in the fourth quarter, when they managed to miss 10 consecutive shots before rookie Derrick Williams finally drove to the basket for a lay-up.
It was Williams and the rest of the second group that kept the Wolves from being embarrassed. The bench scored 50 of the 87 points and were responsible for every charge that kept them in the game.
J.J. Barea did return to action and gave the Wolves a boost off the bench, scoring a team-high 16-points in only 17 minutes. But it wasn't enough.
Kevin Love turned in his first real clunker of the season, scoring 13 points on 3-of-16 from the field and a woeful 5-of-10 from the free-throw line. Love played a team-high 36 minutes and looked noticeably worn out late.
It wasn't just Love who couldn't shoot in Toronto, the Wolves as a team shot just 33.8% from the field and 29.2% from behind the arc.
While the Wolves' superstar slumped, Toronto's shined. Andrea Bargnani scored 31 points.
Barea, who missed the past four games with a hamstring injury, made his return with 2 minutes, 1 second left in the first quarter. He showed a little bit of rust from the layoff but didn't appear to be slowed down by the hamstring, still able to utilize the quickness that is such a big part of his game.
He scored the final seven points of the third quarter as part of an 8-0 run that brought the Wolves back in the game but sat down the stretch while coach Rick Adelman went with a backcourt of Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour.
Michael Beasley's absence allowed for Williams to get more run for a second straight game. The rookie played 28 minutes and scored 13 points, grabbed eight rebounds.
The 17-7 run while the Wolves shot themselves in the foot by missing 10 consecutive shots sealed the Wolves fate at the Air Canada Center.
• 5-of-10: Love at the free-throw line. He has struggled there all season, shooting 77% -- down from his career average of 82%.
• 16: Turnovers for the Wolves in another sloppy game in which they gave their opponents too many possessions.
• 0: Points for Wesley Johnson, who continues his sophomore slump. He was 0-for-5 shooting and played 19 minutes.
Beasley remains out with the mid-foot sprain and will be evaluated further when the team gets back. He isn't expected to miss a significant time but doesn't want to rush back before his body is ready.
"Shhhhhh. The game is on." -- Beasley, tweeting from his personal account minutes before the game.
The Wolves hopped aboard a plane and headed straight back to Minneapolis, where they will get to sleep in their own beds before heading back to the Target Center for third game in as many tnights.
No back-to-back-to-back is easy, but the Wolves drew an especially difficult test by having to play Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls on the business end of their three-game set.
From there, the Wolves get two days to rest their legs and nurse their wounds before heading back on the road for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday at New Orleans and Atlanta.