The Minnesota Timberwolves haven't won a game in Toronto in nearly eight years, but there's reason to believe that slide could be coming to an end.
Ricky Rubio looks to build on another encouraging performance for the Timberwolves on Monday night against a Raptors team coming off an embarrassing loss.
After spending the last two years playing in Spain, Rubio is quickly emerging as a solid NBA point guard. In Sunday's 93-72 win over Washington, the rookie finished with 13 points, a career-high 14 assists - one fewer than the entire Wizards team - and six rebounds.
He came off the bench with 1:30 remaining in the first quarter with the Timberwolves (3-5) down by four points and quickly hit a 22-foot jump shot to start a 17-2 run that gave Minnesota - plus-29 when Rubio was in the game - the lead for good.
Rubio has recorded two double-doubles in the last three games and is establishing a strong relationship with Kevin Love, assisting on four of his seven field goals Sunday.
"We're happy to have him now,'' said Love, who had 20 points and 16 rebounds - his eighth straight game with at least 20 and 12. "Today's just an example of how good he is - and how good he can be. Who's to say? He's still working on his jump shot. He's still working on his game.''
Derrick Williams, the No. 2 overall pick in last year's draft, is also developing into a solid player. He finished with a season-best 14 points and seven rebounds on Sunday.
The Timberwolves were opening a back-to-back-to-back stretch - all without forward Michael Beasley, who sprained his right foot during Friday's loss to Cleveland - while the Raptors play their first of three games in as many days beginning Monday.
Toronto (3-5) has dominated the recent series with Minnesota, winning 13 of 14 since 2004-05, but the Wolves did beat the Raptors 103-87 at home on Jan. 29. The addition of Rubio and Williams could be enough to help Minnesota snap a seven-game losing streak in Toronto in which they've lost by an average of 10.9 points.
The Raptors' sluggish play of late could also give the Timberwolves with an edge.
Toronto suffered a 97-62 loss to Philadelphia on Saturday, its lowest-scoring game since an 82-62 loss to Milwaukee on Nov. 23, 2003. Andrea Bargnani had 21 points and 11 rebounds and Amir Johnson had 12 points and 14 boards, but the rest of the team combined for 29 points on 13 of 55 shooting (23.6 percent).
"Offensively, we were really bad," Bargnani said. "Our shots didn't fall, but that happens sometimes in the NBA."
It seems to be happening more often than not for the Raptors, who are one of the league's lowest-scoring teams at 87.5 points.
Getting the offense in gear against the Timberwolves might not be so easy, as Minnesota is allowing an average of 87.6 points on 40.6 percent shooting in five games this month.
Bargnani averaged 22.5 points against the Wolves last season despite shooting a mere 30.0 percent.
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- Ricky Rubio
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