The return of Kevin Love certainly aided the Minnesota Timberwolves in this one. Kevin missed Minnesota's bout with Miami--a game in which the Wolves shot a franchise-low 29.3% from the field. With Love's return tonight in Detroit, Minnesota's offense returned to "juggernaut" status.
Kevin went for 26 points, 16 rebounds and 7 assists on the night in just 30 minutes of action as he sat for the entire fourth quarter with the game well in hand. This is Love's sixth 20-point/15-rebound game of the season. The other 450+ players in the NBA have a total of 10 combined this season! Love also shot 6-for-15 (40%) from the field, 4-of-6 from deep (67%) and a perfect 10-for-10 (100%) at the line.
The Timberwolves' lowest scoring quarter of the night came in the fourth where Nikola Peković was the only starter to see the court. Despite it being Minny's lowest-scoring quarter they still tallied 25 points (to Detroit's 17) to close out the 121-94 victory. Minnesota scored 31+ in each of the first three quarters (34, 31, 32) outscoring the Pistons in each quarter.
Love had a terrific game, but he wasn't alone. Guards Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin & J.J. Barea played some terrific basketball on both ends. Between the three guards they tallied 43 points, 8 rebounds, 16 assists, 6 steals, 1 turnover and shot 14-for-26 (54%) from the field, 5-for-10 (50%) from deep and 10-for-11 from the line (91%). Barea had a great game off the bench leading the reserves and we're all hoping that this is a performance he can build off of and finally string together some consistent productive outings.
The big concern heading into tonight was containing the Pistons' big starting frontcourt of Josh Smith, Greg Monroe & Andre Drummond. Josh Smith scored 16 points in the first half (9 in the first quarter), but was limited to just 1 point in the second half. Monroe had 6 of his 10 at halftime and Drummond who is averaging over 13 points & 13 rebounds a game, finished with just 8 & 8. I really like the idea of this starting frontcourt in Detroit, but it certainly seems to sound better on paper than it produces on the court.
The Timberwolves still allowed a high shooting percentage for the Pistons (47%), but that's actually the lowest opponent shooting percentage since the Wolves faced the Nets on November 22nd in that blowout 111-81 win where the Nets shot 39.7%. In the six games between that win over Brooklyn and tonight's win over the Pistons, the Wolves have allowed just one opponent to shoot under 50% over that span--the Mavericks on November 30th in a 112-106 win (the only win in that six game span). So, while the Timberwolves defense still wasn't 'great', it is much improved from the 55.1% they allowed Miami to shoot on Saturday. When you couple that with the Timberwolves' bounce-back offensively--it leads to a blowout win over a Pistons squad who had won four of their previous five coming into tonight's game.
The Timberwolves are now just one game below .500 on the season at 10-11 and they'll have a great opportunity to even that record up tomorrow night vs. the Sixers--back at the Target Center. We'll have more on that matchup in our preview tomorrow morning!
Let's take a look at tonight's box score...
The Wolves shot 17 more free throws than the Pistons and were a +20 in free throws made. That was one of the biggest difference makers in tonight's contest! At halftime the Wolves were 17-for-21 from the line while Detroit had gone just 1-for-3.
The Timberwolves also shot high percentages in each shooting category, out-rebounded the Pistons by a +7, a +9 in assists and committed just 13 turnovers to Detroit's 20. One thing I highlighted in the preview was that this matchup featured the NBA's team leader in steals (Detroit) vs. the NBA's #2 team in steals (Minnesota)--each averaging just under 10 a game. The Timberwolves finished the night with 12 to Detroit's 4. Thanks in large part to Martin (4), Cunningham (3) & Rubio (2). Martin's 4 steals ties a season-high (which he had just set on Saturday vs. the Heat).
The Timberwolves are back in action tomorrow night at the Target Center where they'll host Evan Turner & the Philadelphia 76ers, tipoff is set for 7pmCST, stay tuned for a full gameday preview. Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!