Refocused and Healthy

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VanVleet Returns in Big Way as Healthy Raptors Beat the Wolves

Minute restrictions did not stop Fred VanVleet from returning in a big way on Saturday night.

Not missing a single beat, VanVleet poured on 29 points in 28 minutes to help lead the healthy Toronto Raptors to a 122-112 road victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“I think playing at ease like that allowed me to not press and just let the game come to me,” said VanVleet, who returned after a five game absence.

The Raptors were finally back in rhythm, hoping to move past the injury bug that has devastated the defending champs for the entire first half of the season. Kyle Lowry had a big night of his own, finishing with 28 points and seven rebounds, while Norman Powell continued to build on his break out season, totalling 20 points in the win.

With reports suggesting Masai Ujiri plans to be a buyer at the trade deadline, the return to full health couldn’t have happened at a better time for the Raptors. According to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, the 28-14 Raptors are expected to be aggressive, as they moved within a game and a half from the second place Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference standings.

“The Raptors could be active everywhere,” Mannix wrote. “They have the expiring contracts. They have the intriguing young players. They have the future draft picks. They could probably pluck Toronto native Tristan Thompson out of Cleveland anytime they wanted. If they got aggressive, they might be able to quickly cut a deal for Kevin Love, too. Versatile wings like [Jrue] Holiday and Robert Covington could be in play.

“The question is—how aggressive do the Raptors want to get? How strongly does Ujiri believe an upgrade would catapult this team past Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Boston in the East? How realistic is it that the Raptors can knock off either LA team in the West?”

It will be interesting to monitor the situation leading up to the deadline, but until then, the Raptors own one of the easiest second half schedules in the league after a tough slew of games to start off their year. The second seed is by no means out of the questions and the Raptors have the pedigree and the confidence to feel capable of beating just about any team in the NBA.

On to HotLana!

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