TORONTO — Free agent signing Dennis Schroder helped lead Toronto to a 97-94 victory. minnesota timberwolves Wednesday in the season opener at Scotiabank Arena.
The point guard had a team-high 22 points and seven assists, earning a game-high plus-10 rating. Five of those points and three assists came in the fourth quarter, giving the Raptors the victory and marking Darko Rajkovic’s first win as an NBA head coach.
“Coach came in screaming,” Schroder said of the celebration after the game. “We had all the ice for him and put it on him. I think it was a special moment for him and a great experience for all of us in the locker room. … He’s always emotional.”
Before the season Schroder admitted why Rajkovic wanted to play for the Raptorsafter they spent time together, oklahoma city thunder Between 2018 and 2020. According to Schroder, as an assistant coach that was where Radjakovic told him he should “have his own team” as a point guard.
“I just tried to play as well as I could.” [Rajakovic]Just for the organization, for my teammates, just to prove everyone wrong,” said Schroder, who signed a two-year, $26 million contract with Toronto this offseason.
His 20 points are his most since making his debut with the Raptors. Kawhi LeonardCoach Schröder hopes to “get that winning culture back on our side,” while praising Radjakovic, saying he has “done a great job since training camp.”
After Wednesday night’s win, Rajkovic praised Schroder’s ability to help navigate “a new team, new terminology, new coaching staff” as the Raptors show signs common in early season basketball. did.
“There were some situations where we called certain plays and the players didn’t understand it right away,” Radjakovic said.
“There are a lot of new things on our team, and having someone (Schroder) who has had experience with different teams in the point guard role brings calm to the team. On several occasions he has We were able to talk to them and put them in the right positions to help our offense.”
The Raptors finished the game shooting 40 percent from the field, the Timberwolves 34 percent, and both teams committed 14 turnovers. The season opener mimicked a preseason game, and there were some careless decisions made.
Radjakovic believes the Raptors “need to play faster,” and the moments when they were “looking at each other” instead of cutting, driving, and collapsing the defense to find openings. He said that this caused the offense to stagnate.
“There were some situations tonight where we didn’t turn the ball over, but I thought we could do a better job,” Radjakovic said.
“I talked to Scotty. [Barnes] At half-time he needs to push, but at the same time he needs to be controlled. We had to keep believing in the pass. …That’s when things don’t go your way. How do we come together and stay together? I’ve done enough tonight. And definitely, we have a lot of room for improvement. ”
For the Raptors, it was their defense and resulting transition offense that overtook the Timberwolves. Toronto scored 34 points in transition, compared to the Timberwolves’ 12 points, which helped create open looks, especially from 3-point shots, and the Raptors made 40% on 35 shots on the night. He also recorded 27 assists.
“Hopefully we can play elite defense every night,” Radjakovic said. And for us, it creates a transitional opportunity. ”
Defensively, the team was able to contain Anthony Edwards. The All-Star guard started the game hot, outscoring the Raptors themselves 10-8 in the first five minutes of play. That included a three-ball, making him the youngest player in NBA history to hit 600 triples.
However, the Raptors started the first quarter with 12 points on 3-of-5 shooting, and were able to contain their explosive shooting guard, scoring 26 points on 8-of-27 shooting (29%). and finished the game.
“I was a little too loose with him,” he said. OG Anunobyfinished with 20 points while assuming most of the responsibility of guarding Edwards.
“He’s a great player. I gave him too much space. (Then I) just tried to make him more uncomfortable… I just tried to make it difficult for him, just make him physical. I just tried to give it away and force some difficult shots.” ”
Of the Raptors starters, Jacob Poeltl Did not play for more than 25 minutes. Instead, the Raptors’ speed, length, and athleticism of their main wings and forwards were able to get the job done. For example, Barnes guarded Towns on his way to posting a game-high five blocks while providing help-side defense. . Towns, on the other hand, scored 19 points on 8-of-25 shooting.
Rayakovic and Schröder also called out. Precious Achiuwa, was able to give the team some “life” in both first-half and second-half stretches. That included a few nasty slams en route to coming off the bench to score eight points and nine boards.
“I have a lot of faith in this guys and the guys that come off the bench and I believe we’re going to need them every night,” Radjakovic said. “I always tell our players that every possession matters and when you’re on the court you have to cherish it and make the most of it. Our players did a good job tonight. “And this is just the first step as we continue to grow.” ”
Next, the Raptors will embark on a road trip on Friday, October 27th. chicago bullsthe same team that ended Toronto’s season in the 2023 play-ins.