Raptors, Wolves look to ride preseason momentum into opener

After both going undefeated in the preseason, the Minnesota Timberwolves and host Toronto Raptors will see if the momentum carries over to the regular season when the teams meet on Wednesday night.

The Raptors didn’t lose a game in the preseason for the first time in franchise history, finishing with a 4-0 record. Meanwhile, the Timberwolves finished a perfect preseason for the first time since 2011, going 5-0.

The main changes for the Raptors, who were defeated by the Chicago Bulls in a play-in game last season, are a new coach in Darko Rajakovic and a new starting point guard in Dennis Schroder.

Toronto has had some concerns about Scottie Barnes, who exited Friday’s 134-98 preseason victory over the Washington Wizards in the third quarter due to a right foot sprain. Barnes had 23 points and six rebounds before leaving.

“I did not actually see the play. They just told me that it was a knee-to-knee hit,” Rajakovic said. “He’s going to be fine.”

Barnes was a full participant in practice on Sunday, and he should be good to go for the season opener.

“Feels good,” Barnes said of his ankle. “Just a little tweak.”

However, Barnes was concerned when he first injured his ankle.

“It was hurting a lot,” he said. “Whenever I get like a little ankle tweak, I get really scared. I’ve had some of those in my … past. So just being precautious about it. That was just the main thing.”

Barnes is entering his third NBA season after averaging 15.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists during the 2022-23 campaign. He’s expected to take on a bigger role with the departure of guard Fred VanVleet this offseason, and Raptors forward Pascal Siakam has been impressed with Barnes’ development.

“I think for me, I just like his approach to the game,” Siakam said. “He’s coming in every single day. I see him in practice, like he just has the same focus. I can see him just working hard. And you can tell in his eyes, like, he wants the opportunity to continue to get better. And I like how aggressive he is, having fun out there playing basketball.”

Siakam averaged a team-high 24.2 points per game last season.

Like Toronto has in Siakam and Barnes, Minnesota also features a dangerous duo of its own in Anthony Edwards and Rudy Gobert, who have been continuing to establish chemistry.

“I’ve got to get a connection with pick-and-rolls and just throwing lobs to him,” Edwards said. “But I think after that we’re going to take off.”

Edwards led the Timberwolves with 24.6 points per game last season, while Gobert averaged 13.4 to go along with a team-best 11.6 rebounds per contest. Minnesota will also be glad to have star forward/center Karl-Anthony Towns back in the mix after he was limited to just 29 games in 2022-23 due to a calf injury.

Although he didn’t see the court much, Towns still averaged 20.8 points and 8.1 rebounds while shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from beyond the arc.

Toronto and Minnesota played each other twice last season, splitting the cross-conference season series.