On various occasions this season, the Timberwolves have shown us glimpses of what could have potentially been a special 2012-13 campaign had it not been for the myriad of injuries that led the season down the drain. Tuesday night happened to be one of those instances.
Travelling to Detroit to take on the Pistons, the Timberpups staged a second-half blowout due to an explosion of three-pointers despite ranking dead-last as a team in shooting from range. Once the Wolves got hot in the third quarter, the lackluster Pistons seemingly went into autopilot mode and disappeared as they fell to 24-48 on the season.
This game was not as lopsided in the first half as it ultimately turned out to be, and was much more of a defensive battle than the shooting contest it later evolved into. The Pups led 19-16 after the first quarter as Nikola Pekovic controlled the pace in the paint. Detroit, still without rookie center Andre Drummond as he recovers from back surgery, had a difficult time containing Pek as he managed to muscle his way around the interior for second-chance buckets. Drummond, who was the eighth overall selection in last summers NBA Draft, has played absolutely fantastic for Detroit this season before requiring back surgery. The 19-year-0ld center was making a case for Rookie of the Year before falling to injury, and the Pistons have sorely missed his presence in the middle as PF Greg Monroe has been forced to play out of position at the 5.
The second quarter was largely uneventful as the two teams kept it close for the majority of the period. Alexey Shved continued his underwhelming second half of the season highlighted with a few stupid turnovers that led to Detroit fast breaks. Both of his turnovers in the second quarter were the result of him leaving his feet and broadcasting passes across the defense, leading to easy interceptions by defenders watching both their man and the ball. In order to limit these turnovers, Shved needs to take more direct lines on his drives and not leave his feet before deciding to pass.
Pekovic led the Timberwolves with 14 points and 8 rebounds on 6-7 shooting in first half as the Wolves went into the lockerroom with a 44-38 lead. For the Pistons, Monroe led with 8 points and 4 rebounds while having a very difficult time sticking with the 290-pound monster opposite of him in the paint.
The game shifted after the break as Minnesota came out of halftime red-hot from behind the arc. For the first few minutes of the third period, the two teams traded three-pointers as each squad demonstrated good ball movement and spacing. The Pups opened up the second half by hitting 5 of their first 6 three-point attempts and closed the quarter a ridiculous 7-9 from long range as a team. After going scoreless in the first half, Andrei Kirilenko added 7 points in the third quarter as he was very active in the cutting lanes and along the baseline. Pekovic contributed some fierce defense on the Pistons primary scorer, Monroe, and the team highlighted their big third quarter by turning a 6-point halftime lead into a 28-point lead to close the quarter.
The fourth quarter was much of the same, with a few more JJ Barea three-pointers and a raising temper from Pistons Head Coach Lawrence Frank. The Pups held on the win by a score of 105-82.
Keys of the Game:
- Three-point shooting - Take a note, Wolves fans. This is what happens when more than one Timberwolves player heats it up from downtown and when players effectively feed off of each other on offense. While this is only one game and a total outlier to take from this season, it is important to recognize the importance of Minnesota gaining more healthy bodies – especially when those healthy bodies can shoot threes. Seven different players hit at least one three pointer for Minnesota, and as a team they shot 14-26 from deep.
- Passing - The Wolves tallied 26 assists as a team and did a very good job of rotating the ball the find the open man on the perimeter. It must be noted that the Pistons did a poor job of closing out Minnesota shooters, but it is encouraging to see the Wolves actually knock down open shot attempts.
Three Stars of the Game:
- Nikola Pekovic - While JJ Barea may have had the best performance statistically, I believe that Pek deserves the credit for effectively opening up shots on the perimeter due to his interior dominance in the first half. After a big first half, Pek finished the game with 18 points (7-10 FG) and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes.
- JJ Barea - Huge game for Minnesota’s sparkplug PG as he recorded 21 points (8-11 FG) in only 21 minutes. Throw in 5-7 from beyond the arc and only 3 turnovers and you have a classic example of what “Good JJ” can do for a team off of the bench.
- Ricky Rubio - Ricky faced off against his close friend and fellow Spanish National teammate Jose Calderon and had the edge in the matchup. Only needing to play 27 minutes, Ricky finished with 14 points (6-9 FG), 9 assists and 4 rebounds. Rubio hit both of his attempts from long range and provided solid defense against a good PG in Calderon.