Gary Trent Jr. has no exotic plans for the All-Star break, he’s just happy to use the time for bonus bonding with his three younger brothers in Minnesota.
He sure gave his family a good show on Wednesday night, scoring 30 points in his home state to help the Toronto Raptors – who were without All-Star Fred VanVleet – beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 103-91.
“Gary grew up here. He was going to be juiced up for this one, for sure,” coach Nick Nurse said.
Pascal Siakam added 17 points, eight rebounds and nine assists for the Raptors.
Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves with 24 points and 11 rebounds, and Jaden McDaniels pitched in 18 points and seven rebounds, but they were done in by some defensive lapses and icy outside shooting down the stretch.
Trent went 5 for 12 from 3-point range and had 10 points in the fourth quarter for the Raptors in their ninth win in 11 games, while his father – former Timberwolves forward Gary Trent Sr. – sat courtside in a fur coat next to his wide-eyed brothers.
The soft-spoken Trent said he relishes the opportunity for his siblings to watch him in-person, realizing they’re too young to appreciate his father’s nine-year NBA career.
“I’m the closest thing to the reality of what it can be if they can see the work and be what they are,” said Trent, who grew up in the Twin Cities area and won a state championship on the Target Center floor in 2015 with Apple Valley High School. “Any chance I get to showcase that or go out there and play in front of them, I just go out there and play hard.”
Each team will enter All-Star weekend in seventh place in their conferences, and the Raptors are on track to return to the playoffs after missing out last season for the first time in eight years.
The Raptors were coming off a 30-point loss to New Orleans in which they shot a season-worst 30.5% from the field. This was a much sharper performance but came without the service of VanVleet, who was sidelined by knee soreness.
Siakam made three free throws early in the fourth quarter after a foul on D’Angelo Russell, giving the Raptors a 77-74 advantage. It was their first lead since 49-48, and they never trailed after that. Trent knocked down a step-back 3-pointer to make it 92-84 with 5:08 left.
“He continued to be aggressive,” Siakam said. “We need that from him.”
Playing the second half of a back-to-back set and their seventh game in 11 days, the Timberwolves faced another test of their progress after a comeback victory over Charlotte.
“You can just see the fatigue in us. I think the shots you can see were real short, just free throws were short. That fatigue caught up to us,” Towns said.
Anthony Edwards, playing on sprained ankle that had him listed as questionable, had only six points, all from the foul line. Edwards, Russell and Malik Beasley shot a combined 4 for 23 from 3-point range.
“I hope everyone can get some of their legs back or whatever,” coach Chris Finch said, “but you know my thought on this: I’m tired of hearing about how tired everybody is.”
Finch was plucked off of Toronto’s staff midway through last season, when then-basketball boss Gersson Rosas fired Ryan Saunders and skipped the search process. That choice of Nurse’s top assistant has turned out well, though Rosas is no longer around to appreciate it.
The Timberwolves entered the evening with the fourth-best scoring average in the league (113.6 points per game), with players taking to his offensive acumen and style. Edwards is so comfortable with him he calls him “Finchy.”
Something he said?
Beverley jawed with Trent before the opening tipoff, an exchange that drew a technical foul on both players. Trent responded with 13 points in the first 6:01 of the game, including three 3-pointers, as the Raptors romped to a 24-11 lead. Trent had five straight 30-plus games in a recent stretch and has hit that mark eight times this season.
“Last game I didn’t shoot the ball too well. I obviously wanted to come out and assert myself early, try to score the basketball and play my game,” Trent said.
Raptors: Khem Birch started in place of VanVleet and had eight points in 20 minutes.
Timberwolves: This is their second-best record (31-28) at the 59-game mark in the last 18 years.
Raptors: Visit Charlotte on Feb. 25. Scottie Barnes is bound for the Rising Stars game on Friday, and VanVleet will play in his first All-Star game on Sunday after the 3-point contest on Saturday.
Timberwolves: Host Memphis on Feb. 24. Towns will take part in the 3-point contest and the All-Star game. Edwards and McDaniels are in the Rising Stars game.