15,598 people attended tonight’s matchup between the Timberwolves and Pistons, and most of them brought the same level of enthusiasm as the Wolves’ players. That is to say the arena had the feel of a tennis match as Tayshawn Prince destroyed Wes Johnson (and anyone else who tried to stop him) and Wolf jumpers continuously clanked off the rim, the backboard, or both.
The saving grace tonight for the good guys was just how inept Detroit has become. Despite a hot shooting night from Prince (13-23, 3-5 3PT, 29 points) and a (relatively) efficient night from Ben Gordon (7-15, 18 points) Detroit made enough mistakes and missed enough free throws to lose to Minnesota on a REALLY cold night. The Wolves shot just 30-75 from the floor (40.0 percent) and that number must have been even lower at halftime, when they trailed 42-36. I overheard somebody in the concession line remark that “it’s okay; you only need to play one quarter to beat the Pistons.” That was proven correct in this game. The Wolves ratcheted up the defensive pressure in the 4th Quarter (WINNING TIME) and buried Detroit with a 29-14 quarter point.
This really wasn’t the most interesting of contests, even for the die-hard NBA fan. With that in mind, and with a weekend double-header on the way (Clippers on Friday (CP3 may not play–hamstring), Jazz on Saturday) I’ll bring this one home with a few brief notes and let readers add anything they see fit in the comments:
* Detroit lost this game at the free-throw line. They shot 10-21 (47.6 percent) and a respectable 15 or 16 makes would have SERIOUSLY pressured the Wolves comeback effort.
* Ricky missed everything tonight–EXCEPT the coolest layup I’ve seen all year. He drove left, whirled the ball around his back and finished as the defenders’ heads were spinning. He shot 1 for 8, yet impacted the game with filthy dime after dime down the stretch. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but the winding kick-out to Wellington on the wing for a trey stuck out as an uber-important basket. This bucket extended the lead to 7 (88-81) with 4:22 to go and was the moment that the game felt in hand.
* Oh, and Ricky was getting his hands on every loose ball and rebound opportunity, too. This type of game is what optimists expected as his upside. (9 points on 8 shots; 7 rebounds; 8 assists; 6 steals). His impact was second to Love’s in securing this win.
* Love had 20 and 17. Ho. Hum.
* Derrick Williams, I continue to believe, needs to aggressively drive from that 15-feet, square-up position. When he does it without hesitation, he looks like Amar’e Stoudemire. Too many times, he looks more like Wes Johnson, shuffling his feet and wondering how best to not do something productive. Come on D-THRILL! He’s good, just give him time.
* No matter what you might think, or what you’ve been led to believe, the team is not benefitting from Michael Beasley’s absence. They’ve managed to beat some bad teams (Wizards, Hornets sans Gordon, Kings, Pistons) and have lost to the Raptors, Bulls, and Hawks. If Beasley’s shooting regresses to the mean of his career, he’s a player this team could use. That isn’t to say he’s perfect, great, or even “good.” Just that he possesses a skill set that no other Wolf comes close to. That may change over time with Derrick Williams, but he isn’t anywhere near as polished as Mike is at collecting baskets against real defense. Combine Rubio’s passing with Love’s foul-drawing and then add in Mike’s shot creating–that has the feel of a legitimately-good team. Not just one that eeks out scrappy wins against dog shit competition.
Season Record: 6-8