Mistakes ultimately doomed the Timberwolves Wednesday against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Wolves were unable to overcome 23 turnovers as Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph were extremely efficient and other veterans Mike Conley and Tony Allen helped the Grizzlies start the season 1-0 for the first time since the franchise located from Vancouver to Memphis.
On Thursday, the Wolves were back in the friendly confines of Target Center. It was a back-to-back scenario for both clubs; the Detroit Pistons entered Thursday having dropped their opener on the road against the Denver Nuggets, 89-79, the evening before.
Greg Monroe, who, along with Andre Drummond, is one-of-two Pistons young frontcourt stars not eligible to face the Wolves. During the offseason, Monroe was arrested for Driving While Visually Impaired, a his charge is described as a 'lesser offense' to a DUI in the state of Michigan. Monroe served the final game of his suspension on Thursday. Subsequently, the home club wouldn't need to deal with another prominent-offensive tandem as they did in Memphis.
Pistons President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Stan Van Gundy committed to second-year player Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as his starting shooting guard to go with Kyle Singler and Brandon Jennings on the perimeter, Josh Smith and Drummond up front while Monroe served the second- and final -game of his suspension. Saunders countered with Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, Corey Brewer, Thaddeus Young and Nikola Pekovic. Kevin Martin wasn't in the starting lineup but was available and did play.
Andrew Wiggins and Nikola Pekovic continued to look for their groove on the offensive end, but to little avail. Wiggins was held scoreless through two-quarters while Pekovic shot two-of-six and headed to the locker room at halftime with six-points. The Wolves led the Pistons by one, 45-44.
Right away during the third-quarter Pekovic started to find his groove, scoring seven-points over a five-minute span, and the Wolves started to pull away shortly after halftime. Moreover, Wiggins scored eight-points during the third frame and gave the crowd their first- regular season -glimpse of what makes him such an exciting player. It wasn't an alley-oop or even a dunk, but such athleticism cannot go ignored and the crowd oohed and ahhed while being shown the replay.
Wiggins hang time https://t.co/VwLFtCBWjl— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) October 31, 2014
Caron Butler kept the Wolves from pulling away during the second half. With 8:26 remaining in the game Butler led all scorers with 17 points after spearheading the Pistons' 26-8 run which began late in the third-quarter and extended into the final frame. Allthewhile, Wiggins watched helplessly from the sideline and did not play during the fourth quarter.
Anthony Bennett was replaced by Thad Young with 7:00 minutes remaining and, by that time, the Wolves lead had dissipated to just three-points. Bennett didn't play very much, but finished with four-points and three-rebounds in 14 minutes and was effective during that time. He's showed promise during the preseason and through the first two-games.
Stan Van Gundy called a timeout after a Kevin Martin layup that made the score 84-79. With 5:38 left to play; Rubio, Williams, Brewer, Young and Pekovic matched up against D.J. Augustine, Caldwell-Pope, Butler, Josh Smith and Andre Drummond. Smith made a push-shot to bring the deficit to two and uncertainty loomed throughout the Target Center with the game's outcome very much in question.
Coach Flip Saunders left the veterans on the floor to close out the game. Keeping Martin, who started on the bench, in for Wiggins although Saunders said postgame he would have been kicking himself had the Wolves lost. This is because Martin could not contain Caron Butler during the Pistons' admiral comeback late in the final quarter.
Overall, it was a sloppy-but-gutty performance that resulted in a victory. The Wolves attempted only 10 three pointers (to the Pistons 21) and made four of them which attributed to an impressive 48 percent shooting performance from the field. It didn't look like it, but the Wolves were pretty efficient shooting the basketball. A sneaky-good display in that respect.
Wiggins and Pekovic found some rhythm on the offensive side of the ball and it appears Flip Saunders, choosing to play Kevin Martin off the bench, may have found a group of starters he'll roll with on a regular basis. Saunders said season "is about facilitating the progress of our young players," and getting Wiggins and Bennett into a routine in terms of their roles is a good place to build from.
However, prior to the game, Saunders explained the Wolves hoped to get Zach LaVine some opportunities against the Pistons. LaVine played four-minutes and didn't record a point, rebound, or assist and, though perhaps somewhat begrudgingly, said "it was nice to get my feet wet."
LaVine has played in just one of the Wolves first two games.
There is concern Saunders isn't prioritizing player-development and would rather do what it takes to win as many games as possible, even if it means sitting the younger players. There are a few who would have liked to see Andrew Wiggins guarding Caron Butler as the Pistons rallied to get back into the game late in the fourth-quarter.
Final Score: 97-91
- Thaddeus Young led all Wolves in scoring for the second consecutive night (19 points).
- Ricky Rubio scored 11 points and had 8 assists to go along with 7 rebounds. He got into some foul trouble and finished having committed five personals. Rubio was four-of-ten from the field and three-of-five from the line.
- Mo Williams continues to be valuable appearing off the bench. He finished with 13 points in just over 23 minutes of playing time.
- Zach LaVine played a little more than four-minutes but was the only Timberwolf to not record a point.
- Shabazz Muhammad scored one-point in 13 minutes but a lackluster defensive performance kept him from being more involved during the game. Saunders mentioned focus as an issue with Muhammad, who often meandered away from his mark on the defensive end in search of things like rebounds and steals.