T-Wolves step up in Butler’s absence to ground Raptors

Andrew Wiggins stepped up big for Minnesota against visiting Toronto on Saturday night at Target Center.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are considered to be a team with great potential as they continue to put things together.

One of the many lessons learned along the way by the Timberwolves is to be able to play at a high level, even when important players can’t answer the bell.

Against the Toronto Raptors, the second-best team in the Eastern Conference on Saturday night at Target Center, Minnesota was without leading scorer Jimmy Butler (knee) and bench sparkplug Jamal Crawford (toe). And center Karl-Anthony Towns picked up three quick fouls and played eight scoreless minutes in the first half.

The result? No problem.

Andrew Wiggins scored 29 points and Town fired in 22 in the second half as the Timberwolves rallied from an 11-point deficit to clip the Raptors, 115-109.

Wiggins, whose 22 first-half points kept Minnesota in it, said the next-man-up mentality is yet another lesson learned by him and his teammates.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that know how to play,” Wiggins said. “That’s the NBA for you. Someone’s injured, the next person just steps up. We have a good team, a lot of guys that can step up and make plays.”

Minnesota picked up its first win in three tries in games Butler has missed.

While Wiggins carried the Timberwolves in the first half and Towns was the headliner in the second, Minnesota also received solid contributions from Marcus Georges-Hunt (12 points), Tyus Jones and Gorgui Deng (9 points each) and the dusted-off Shabazz Muhammad (7 points).

All of whom impressed Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau.

“If you’re in this league, you’re a great player,” he said. “So when someone’s out, it’s an opportunity for someone else to step in. As long as we play hard, we feel like we’re going to have a chance to win every night.”

Kyle Lowry’s season-high 40 points, including shooting 14-of-25 from the floor and 6-of-10 from 3, led Toronto, which also received 20 points from DeMar DeRozan.

However, Minnesota (30-18) was much more aggressive offensively and it showed at the free-throw line. The Timberwolves were 32-of 42 from the line, while the Raptors took only half the number of attempts, making 19.

“We didn’t match their intensity coming out of the locker room in the second half,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “We knew they were going to come. We just didn’t move offensively. We were standing, watching the ball. We were trying to run our sets, but we played in mud.”

The Raptors (31-14), who had a two-game winning streak stopped, defeated San Antonio on Friday night at Air Canada Centre and built a 33-21 lead after one quarter against the Timberwolves. However, they could not stave off Minnesota.

“We’ve got to come out with a little bit more energy on the back-to-back,” Lowry said. “But it’s no excuse.”