The Toronto Raptors are used to being a sub.-500 team, but they’re not used to being a first-place one.
The Atlantic Division-leading Raptors (12-16) look for their sixth win in seven games at the Air Canada Centre when they meet the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.
Coming into this season, Toronto had a .391 winning percentage all-time with a record of 341-529, and had finished above .500 just three times in its 11-year history. Heading into this contest, they’re atop the Atlantic for the first time since Nov. 25, 2003, when they were 6-7.
This season Toronto is 7-3 at home, where it will play five of its next six, including tough matchups against Chicago and Phoenix.
The Raptors also are a surprising 5-4 without Chris Bosh, the team leader with 20.5 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. Bosh is recovering from a sore right knee and is expected to resume running this week.
The Raptors return home after going 2-2 on a West Coast trip capped by a 110-97 loss to Seattle on Saturday. T.J. Ford had 24 points and nine assists for the Raptors, who trailed by 14 points after one quarter and never overcame the deficit.
Fred Jones, who had 19 points off the bench, said he saw positive signs on this trip.
“Last time when we went out West, we were 0-5. This time we’re 2-2. So that’s positive.” he said. “We’re making a step forward. But of course, we’re not happy with losing these games. We’re not happy with a losing record. It’s growing pains.”
Top overall draft pick Andrea Bargnani finished with just 3 points on 1-of-3 shooting from the field in the loss to the Sonics. One night earlier, he drained a game-winning 3-pointer in overtime of a 101-100 win over Portland. The 6-foot-10 forward averaged 11.3 points and five rebounds per game during the road trip, but made just 3 of 17 3-point attempts.
The Raptors have won four straight from the Timberwolves thanks in part to shooting 49.0 percent (47-for-96) from beyond the arc in those contests.
Minnesota (12-13) got a lift from a rookie in its last game, and avoided an embarrassing loss. Randy Foye’s runner with 1.8 seconds to play gave the Timberwolves a 100-98 win over Chicago after they blew a 25-point lead.
“That’s what I do best, make plays for myself and make plays for other people,” said Foye, who finished with a career-high 25 points. “You would see the last seven minutes of every game in college (at Villanova) I had the ball and I wasn’t scoring all the time. I was making plays for other people, but if they took that away from me I scored.”
Foye also showed his defensive skills when he altered a potential game-tying shot by Andres Nocioni at the buzzer.
Kevin Garnett finished two assists short of his first triple-double since April 9, 2005. He had 26 points and 14 rebounds against Chicago for his 22nd double-double this season, tying him with Utah’s Carlos Boozer for the league lead.
In 21 career games against the Raptors, Garnett is averaging 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists. He’s recorded double-doubles in five straight games against them.