March 31, 2015

The Toronto Raptors might be earning an extended break more than any other team, but given how they're playing, they might also be the last to want to kill their momentum.

Toronto can head into the All-Star break with 15 wins in 16 games Wednesday night, and there's been no shortage of success against the Minnesota Timberwolves for 12 seasons.

The Raptors (35-16) have won three straight after Monday's 103-89 victory in Detroit. They've taken seven of eight on the road in their 14-1 span while winning three of four to start a season-high six-game road stretch that'll conclude after the break.

Toronto shot 55.7 percent against the Pistons - a season best on the road - and it's 23 of 39 (59.0 percent) from 3-point range in the last two games.

"We're growing a lot," guard DeMar DeRozan told the team's official website. "I think we've got to credit the coaching staff for really staying disciplined with us and understanding no matter how many games we win in a row or what record we stand at in the conference, we've got to play with that sense of urgency every single night."

Kyle Lowry has done that. His 25 points led the way in Detroit, and the guard has averaged 27.0 points and shot 56.3 percent in the last three games, including 14 of 25 from 3-point range. His 21.1 points per game is well up from his career high of 17.9 in 2013-14, and that has plenty to do with a career-best 39.7 percent mark from long range while attempting a career-high 7.1 per game.

Lowry has also had at least two steals in seven straight games, and his season average of 2.25 is a drastic bump from last season's career-best 1.56.

Bench play has also been a significant part of the success, scoring 42 points against the Pistons and hitting 8 of 12 from 3-point range with Terrence Ross scoring 18 and Cory Joseph adding 15 on 7-of-9 shooting. Dwane Casey's reserves have averaged 36.1 points and shot 49.9 percent over the last 13 games.

"I thought Cory and T. Ross came in, (Patrick Patterson) was a plus-23 and he was 3 for 4 from the field so he was doing some energetic things defensively, (he was) active, moving the basketball, he was screening and creating space, and Cory was Cory," Casey said. "Coming in and changing the game with his energy and toughness and grit and grime. The bench really came in and carried us tonight."

The Raptors have won 20 of 21 meetings dating to the start of 2004-05, and a 113-99 victory in Minnesota on April 1 came with Lowry sidelined.

For Minnesota (16-37), Monday's 116-102 home loss to New Orleans ended a two-game winning streak, and it has its opponent scoring average at 110.5 over the last four.

While opponents have shot 40.2 percent from long range in those games, the Timberwolves' perimeter game has been awful over the past six contests while connecting on 25.0 percent and 3 of 24 in the last two.

"We talked less last night," center Gorgui Dieng told the team's official website. "I think that's what coach (Sam Mitchell) was trying to emphasize today, just to make sure we talk more on defense. Talking defensively, especially me and (Karl-Anthony Towns), telling people where they're at. That was a big communication night and we missed it."

Towns has otherwise been a bright spot with eight straight double-doubles while averaging 21.8 points on 60.0 percent shooting with 12.5 rebounds.

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