For most of the game, it looked like a tale of two squads: The starters, though struggling at times offensively, were in control when on the floor, while the bench unit looked bad, especially going against the powerful front line of the Pistons.
When the Wolves squandered their lead early in the 4th quarter with the starters clearly done for the night, it looked like the Pistons would cruise to a win. But the bench group managed to hang in there behind several big plays from J.J. Barea, who had another big game with 16 points, and important baskets from Alexey Shved. Following two missed free throws with 18 seconds left by rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Barea gave the Wolves a two point lead with a strong drive to the basket with 3.6 seconds left. However, Derrick Williams failed to contest Josh Smith outside the three point line, and Smith's shot bounced off the front rim and in as the buzzer sounded, giving the Pistons the victory.
For the Wolves, Nikola Pekovic didn't play as a precautionary measure after suffering a leg bruise last night in Philadelphia, and Ronny Turiaf started in his place. Dante Cunningham got the start at small forward, as Rick Adelman still seems to be looking for someone to grab hold of that position in the absence of Chase Budinger.
Coach Adelman tightened the rotation tonight, with only 10 players appearing, presumably the 10 who are likely to see regular minutes during the first part of the season, with the exception of Gorgui Dieng, who backed up Turiaf in Pekovic's absence. However, he still limited the starters minutes, with nobody going more than 29 minutes. In contrast, the Pistons, who were without Brandon Jennings, played a much more regular season rotation, with four players going 33+ minutes, and only nine guys appearing.
The size of the Pistons took it's toll, as they got to the free throw line 34 times; the Wolves were able to stay in the game because they made only 19 of them.
Once again, the Wolves relied on the three pointer tonight, going 12-33 from the arc. They were led by Kevin Love, who made three triples and scored 19 points overall in his 29 minutes. Ricky Rubio got off to a hot start early as the Pistons were aggressively taking Love away in the first quarter, and finished with 15 points on a solid 6-12 from the floor and 3-6 from the arc.
Kevin Martin also showed his value, with 18 points despite going only 5-13 from the floor, as he made all 7 of his free throws.
This group came alive in the third quarter after trailing by five at halftime. Kevin Love found the range from deep, Kevin Martin was drawing contact,and Rubio was orchestrating as the Wolves outscored the Pistons by 10 in the third. Rubio went out late in the quarter with an apparent neck injury; it didn't appear serious.
None of the starters appeared in the fourth quarter, and the Pistons quickly regained the lead, which led to a back and forth final six minutes that was quite entertaining.
The preseason comes to a close with the Wolves going 4-3.
Regular season in six days.
Let's go Wolves.