What to watch for in Raptors’ Sunday matchup vs. Timberwolves

After spending their last six games on the road — five coming within the last seven days — the Toronto Raptors get a small Valentine’s Day break from hotel living as they take on the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday from Tampa at 7 p.m. ET on Sportsnet ONE and Sportsnet Ontario.

The Raptors will have to enjoy this reprieve back in their temporary home at Amalie Arena for the time being because they’ll be heading out on the road again for three games immediately afterwards, including a pair of contests against the vaunted Milwaukee Bucks and another game against the Timberwolves.

Having gone 4-2 on their recent six-game roadie, the Raptors appear to have captured some momentum as they continue to try to climb back to the .500 mark that has eluded them all season long.

An encounter against the league’s worst team figures to go a long way in aiding this quest.

Here are three things to watch for as you take in the game.

Anunoby’s return?

OG Anunoby has missed the last nine games with a left calf strain, but could make his return to the lineup on Sunday.

Listed as “questionable” according to the latest official injury report, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse seemed optimistic after the team practiced Saturday that there would be some good news in regards to his status for Sunday.

The team’s best defender and a player who was red hot from deep before he got injured (he was shooting 60.8 per cent from three-point range in his last eight games), getting Anunoby back would be a big boost for the Raptors on Sunday and beyond as he’s a guy who, in a pinch, could be thrown onto bigger, talented bodies like a Karl-Anthony Towns or Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Anunoby’s return does put into flux what the team might do with Norman Powell’s strong play as a starter, but that’s a good problem to have, overall.

Weak opponent

The Timberwolves currently possess the NBA’s worst record at 6-20 for the season. Additionally, they own the second-worst net rating in the league at minus-7.2, the third-worst offensive rating with just 105.7 points per 100 possessions and they play the eighth-worst defence with a defensive rating of 112.9.

Put another way, the Timberwolves are really bad.

And sure, Minnesota’s been without its top dog Towns for the majority of its season as he’s battled COVID-19, but even with their two-time All-Star centre, the Timberwolves still aren’t much of an NBA basketball team.

Therefore, given what lies ahead for them, the Raptors have to take advantage and get this win on Sunday. Taking care of business against weak opponents is what good teams do and if the Raptors are actually as good as they’ve potentially shown over the last week and a half, then they should have no problem tucking Minnesota into bed easily.

Big things ahead

On the topic of what’s ahead for Toronto, another good reason why it’s going to need to get this win on Sunday is its upcoming schedule.

As mentioned before, the Raptors will head back out on the road after this Sunday’s game for two against the Bucks in Milwaukee and then another one against the Timberwolves in Minnesota.

After that, however, things don’t get any easier.

Toronto will play a back-to-back set with the Philadelphia 76ers, then see the Miami Heat and the Houston Rockets.

All teams come with good big men that could be problematic for the Raptors without the proper personnel to stop them.

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