James scored 27 points, including two key baskets and two free throws down the stretch, to help Toronto beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 98-94 on Monday night for their third straight win and sixth in eight games.
“We have a goal in mind and as long as we continue to keep playing basketball the right way and keep playing hard you never know what can happen in April,” James said.
“I thought Chris had probably his worst game of the year and his teammates picked him up,” head coach Sam Mitchell said.
When asked why this team that started out poorly is now on a roll, Mitchell pointed to how they rallied around Bosh.
“The guys in that locker room care about each other,” Mitchell said. “They really like each other.”
“In November, I had just gotten traded here and we were just getting to know each other,” James said. “Now, we’re coming into our own.”
The Timberwolves are obviously facing the same issues that hampered Toronto three months ago. Minnesota is 3-8 since the seven-player trade with Boston and Kevin Garnett drew an analogy for the reporters in the locker room.
“You guys, you go to work, and when a new colleague comes in you have to form chemistry and try to work with that,” Garnett said. “Sometimes that transition is a rough one.”
“We have no choice,” Garnett added. “We’re in a position where we have to stop looking down the road and start to focus on one game at a time and getting better.”
Garnett had 23 points and 19 rebounds for Minnesota, which lost its fourth straight and fell seven games below .500 for the first time since the 1996-97 season. All four of those losses have come at home.
“We just can’t give up,” said Anthony Carter, who had 10 points and six assists. “Like we said in the past, we’ve only had one day of practice together since the new guys have been here.”
Trailing 77-70, Minnesota closed within three midway through the third quarter. But, Toronto responded with a jumper from Jose Calderon and a runner from James to restore the seven-point lead.
The Wolves came right back with six straight points, before James hit a 3-pointer to make it 92-88 with 2:15 left. Garnett hit a short jump hook to make it 92-90 and the teams exchanged baskets to make it 94-92 with 30 seconds left.
James then hit another big shot, taking seven-footer Blount to the basket and scoring on a driving left-handed layup to make it 96-92.
“We knew that they were going to switch at the end of the game and I was going to take it to the basket,” said James, of the play drawn up in the timeout.
After Trenton Hassell’s dunk, James sealed the game with two free throws.
James scored seven points in the third quarter to help Toronto extend a five-point halftime-lead.
In the second, Peterson scored 10 points and James added seven, including a four-point play, to help Toronto build a 53-48 halftime lead. Blount had 11 in the quarter.
James had 11 points in the first quarter, and the Raptors made 10-of-15 from the field to take a 27-24 lead.
Minnesota has lost four straight, twice this season. … Wolves PG Marko Jaric, who started the first 46 games, was inactive for the second straight game with tendinitis in his left knee. … In the 18 Toronto wins James has played in, he has averaged over 21 points. In the 32 losses, he is averaging under 16. … James entered the game ranked fourth in the NBA with a .441 3-point shooting percentage and he made 3-of-6.