The Timberwolves hosted the Detroit Pistons at the Target Center on Saturday night with Rick Adelman receiving another opportunity to win his 1000th career victory in his 22nd season as an NBA coach. The Pups came within a few points of achieving the feat the previous night against Toronto, but ultimately fell by a score of 95-93 leaving Adelman at 999 career victories.
Detroit boasted their tough frontcourt of rising star Greg Monroe paired with rookie phenom Andre Drummond, it was no easy task for Minnesota starters Nikola Pekovic and Derrick Williams on the interior. The centers matchup of Pekovic and Drummond was sure not to disappoint, as it was a matchup of Minnesota’s polished bruiser against Detroit’s young Amar’e Stoudemire clone.
For the last time this season, it was a Spaniard vs. Spaniard PG matchup as buddies Ricky Rubio and Jose Calderon faced off for the final time of the regular season. While both are familiar from their participation on the Spanish National team, each player possesses their own unique style. The long time Raptor Calderon focuses his scoring from long mid-range jumpers stretching beyond the arc, and due to his lack of elite quickness uses precision in his movements to make plays. On the other end, Tricky Ricky as many call him threads passes through tight windows while using his eyes to lead defenses one way while he does what they least expect him to. Despite the different styles, both Rubio and Calderon have enjoyed very good campaigns in 2012-13.
Detroit got running in transition early, as they were very active at getting hands in the passing lanes and forcing turnovers. They did a nice job of pushing the ball hard down the floor following steals, but they had a difficult job of finishing at the rim with the advantage in transition.
Derrick Williams got off to a strong start as he netted 6 of the Wolves’ first 14 points as Minnesota led 14-6 with 7:36 remaining in the first quarter. Ricky had a tough time getting penetration in the first period as Detroit showed strong resilience as a unit on the defensive end. However, the Wolves advantage in transition allowed them a 33-25 lead at the culmination of the first quarter.
Detroit got nice bench contributions from Jonas Jerebko and Rodney Stuckey in the second quarter and the Pistons and Wolves went back and forth in the second period. Coming off the bench, JJ Barea came right back and provided a great spark for the Wolves, creating off the dribble and doing a great job of mixing up pull up jumpers and shot fakes for easy buckets off of the drive. Continuing to flow the offense through their 290-pound mammoth, Minnesota headed to the locker room with a 61-55 first half lead.
The second half continued to be a dog fight as Detroit outshot the Timberwolves, but continually committed careless turnovers on the offensive end which led to some easy transition buckets for Minnesota. The Pups dug deep for their head coach and held on to a three point lead heading into the final period of play.
With six different Pistons finishing with at least 3 turnovers last night, it is easy to understand why Minnesota ultimately won the game 107-101. However, a win is a win and Rick Adelman was quick to rush over to his wife Mary Kay who awaited him in the corner of the court. Despite all the health issues that Mary Kay and Rick have fought together, they were both on the court on Saturday night to witness Rick become the eighth coach in NBA history to reach the 1,000 mark. All of the Timberwolves players joined in celebration following the home victory and fans relished in something meaningful during an anticlimactic and disappointing season. Go Rick, you deserve all the credit you get.
Alexey Shved played only 4 minutes and scored 0 points after failing to attempt a field goal. It has been a disastrous second half of the season for the 24-year-old Shved, who after lighting it up in the Rising Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star weekend has fell to near the bottom of Adelman’s rotation. It will be a crucial summer for Alexey as he needs to regain the confidence and swagger that he displayed throughout much of the first half of the season.
Ricky Rubio shot just 1-13 from the field, but was nonetheless a +17 on the floor while notching 6 assists, 5 steals, and 5 rebounds in 32 minutes. Games like these remind everybody watching what Ricky’s offseason priority must be: taking as many jump shots in the gym as possible.
Rodney Stuckey has come on strong in his past four games, averaging 20 points over that very span. After receiving a 5-year, $50 million deal Stuckey has fallen very short of his expectations and has become an afterthought of the common Pistons fan. Regardless of the past, the 6-foot-5 combo-guard played a solid 28 minutes and finished the night with 20 points (8-15 FG), 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 turnovers.
Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe combined for 25 points and 16 rebounds, but were unable to contain Pekovic as he recorded yet another double-double. The 22-year-old Monroe and 19-year-old Drummond together may be the most exiting future frontcourt in the NBA, and each could prove perfect compliments to the others game as the Pistons move forward in their rebuilding efforts.
Keys of the Game:
- Free throws - Coming into the game fifth in the NBA in free throw attempts per game, the Timberwolves attempted 17 more free throws than Detroit while hitting at a similar percentage as their counterparts. However, the total trips to the line proved to be a key advantage as the Pups netted 29 of their 38 attempts compared to 15 of 21 for the Pistons.
- Turnovers - In and out of injuries for much of the second half of the season, Andrei Kirilenko appears to be 100% as far as his health goes and it was evident tonight on the defensive end where the Russian recorded 7 of Minnesota’s 16 steals. Rubio was also able to add 5 steals of his own while Detroit only managed 10 as a team on their way to 24 Pistons turnovers to only 14 by the Pups.
Three Stars of the Game:
- Rick Adelman - I had to, right? Congratulations to Minnesota’s head coach who became just the eighth coach all-time to hit four digits in the wins column, and while his future surrounding his potential retirement clouds his future as the Wolves’ head coach, the Pups are very lucky to have a historic coach at the helm in the meantime.
- Nikola Pekovic - Boy has Pek been on a tear as of late. The Timberwolves man in the middle has flourished as the Timberwolves primary scorer with Kevin Love potentially done for the season with his broken hand, and Pek has taken full advantage of the spotlight as he auditions for a huge contract this summer. Finishing the night with 20 points (7-15 FG) and 13 rebounds while possessing a game-high +20 in 36 minutes on the floor, there is no question that Pek has been producing as a top-tier center in the NBA over the past month. The biggest question is if the oft-injured center who is in just his third NBA season will be worth spending a probable $10+ million per year contract on as he nears restricted free agency this upcoming summer. With the notoriously cheap Glen Taylor running the team, there are no guarantees that we will see our Montenegrin big man in a Timberwolves uniform next season.
- Brandon Knight - This was a tough decision between Rodney Stuckey and Knight as each player provided a huge impact in their own respect. I ultimately gave the nod to Knight as he was able to make a huge impact from beyond the arc as well as driving to the basket. The second year combo-guard out of Kentucky has had a somewhat difficult transition from college to the NBA, but his versatility gives him the ability to impact the game in a variety of ways. He ironically is a very similar player to his overpaid backup in Stuckey, but remains five years younger and much more consistent despite having had much less professional experience. In 41 minutes, Knight scored a game-high 25 points (9-15 FG, 3-4 3Pt) to pair with 6 assists and 2 steals.