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Raptors-Timberwolves Preview

AP - Sports

Backed by a strong stretch on the defensive end, the Toronto Raptors are on the verge of moving nine games above .500 for the first time in seven years.

Though the Raptors have dominated the series over the past decade, they could have a difficult time continuing that trend on the road against the high-scoring Minnesota Timberwolves.

Atlantic Division-leading Toronto seeks its ninth win in 11 games while Minnesota hopes to continue its playoff push with its eighth win in 10 on Sunday night.

The Raptors (34-26) limited Sacramento to 41.7 percent shooting and 5 of 19 from 3-point range Friday en route to a 99-87 home win in Rudy Gay's first game back in Toronto.

After missing one game due to an ankle sprain, Terrence Ross led five Toronto players in double figures with 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. He's scored 16.8 per game while hitting 19 of 34 from 3-point range in his last five.

The Raptors have tightened things up defensively, allowing an average of 92.7 points in regulation over the last nine games. Washington has been the only team to reach 100 during this stretch in a 134-129 triple-overtime road win Feb. 27.

Now Toronto has a chance to move its highest above the break-even mark since finishing 47-35 in 2006-07 with its 18th victory in 19 meetings with the Timberwolves (31-30).

"We still have a lot of growth to do, a lot of things to correct," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "We're playing with excellent confidence, but we have to get better."

Casey's club figures to be tested by a Minnesota team that has averaged 112.1 points - 5.8 above its season average - while winning seven of its last nine games.

Kevin Love finished with 28 points, 14 rebounds and five assists while Kevin Martin scored 24 and Nikola Pekovic had 17 points and nine boards in a 114-101 home win over Detroit on Friday.

Coming off a loss to New York two nights earlier, the Timberwolves led by 31 points in the third quarter before holding on for their third win in four home games. They're still five games out of the final playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference with 21 remaining.

''We have to have more discipline in what we do,'' coach Rick Adelman said. ''I don't care what the score is. We have to learn.''

Love has done his part during this surge, averaging 30.8 points and 16.1 rebounds while making 43.8 percent from 3-point range. The All-Star has totaled just 29 points on 10-of-35 shooting in his last two games against the Raptors, though he's also missed two in between because of a broken right hand.

Minnesota shot 43.9 percent from the field - including 3 of 18 from 3-point range - in a 94-89 loss in Toronto on Jan. 17. Martin finished with 18 points and Love scored 16 with 12 rebounds while missing 12 of 19 shots.

Kyle Lowry countered with 24 points and 6-of-9 shooting beyond the arc to key the Raptors' fifth straight win in this series. He's scored 19.6 per game and made 11 of 24 from 3 in his last five versus Minnesota dating to his time with Houston.

DeMar DeRozan, averaging a team-high 22.7 points, stepped up with 25 to help Toronto pull out a 95-93 win in the most recent meeting in Minnesota on April 5.

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