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Pistons at Timberwolves Preview: A Battle of the Bigs

The Wolves host a resurgent Pistons team tonight at Target Center...still looking for that first home win.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Pistons at Wolves
7:00 pm CST
FS North

Tonight should be a good test for the Wolves as they continue to look for their first home win of the season. The Pistons come in at 6-5 after starting the season winning five of their first six. A difficult west coast swing that saw them lose four in an row followed, but they are coming off an impressive home win against the Cavaliers in their last outing.

The Pistons are a top 10 defensive team in the league, and on paper have a good shot at shutting the Wolves down tonight, as their defensive weakness has been teams that hurt them from beyond the arc, something the Wolves are not equipped to do. Offensively, they get a lot out of Andre Drummond on the post, on the roll, and on the offensive glass (on whom more in a minute), and are led out top by Reggie Jackson. Unfortunately for them, as a team they have not been able to take advantage of open shots from the arc, shooting just over 30% from three. The guys they need to make them--Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Anthony Tolliver, Stanley Johnson--have not been converting, which leaves the Pistons 27th in efg% in the league. Their one shooter who is making them is Ersan Ilyasova, who starts at the four.

Where the Pistons truly shine is on the glass, where they are 2nd in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. In large part this is thanks to Andre Drummond, who is having a monster start to his season, averaging an insane 19 points and 19 rebounds (not a typo) per game.  Though overall the Wolves have been surprisingly successful on the defensive glass, we saw how it can hurt them against the Magic on Wednesday.

Drummond, at 22 years old, just keeps getting better. Playing more minutes, increasing his role on offense, and dominating the boards in a Rodman-esque way, he's emerged as possibly the best center in the league. His weakness continues to be atrocious free throw shooting, so we'll see if the Wolves, who rarely engage in hackathons but did a little against Hassan Whiteside in Miami, will use that tactic tonight.

Meanwhile, it's just a fantastic test for Karl-Anthony Towns, who is playing crazy good basketball for a 20 year old rookie a dozen games into his career. There really is no weakness. Drummond will have the size and strength advantage tonight; it will be interesting to see how Towns adjusts to that. We've seen how quickly he can learn and adapt all season--I'm remembering the first half vs. second half of the game against the Grizzlies and Marc Gasol.  This might be his sternest challenge yet, and I can't wait to watch.

Unlike the Wolves, the Pistons play their starters heavy minutes--three are averaging over 37 minutes a night (Drummond, Morris, and Caldwell-Pope). Only two reserves average 20 minutes a game--Anthony Tolliver and Stanley Johnson. The Pistons largely rely on those seven players to play most of the minutes. The Wolves on the other hand play 10 guys at least 15 minutes a night, so it will be on the reserve unit, which has had its ups and downs, to keep pace with the Pistons.

A key for the Wolves offense, as usual, will be getting to the free throw line. The Pistons have been very effective in keeping opponents off the line, so how the game is called could have a significant impact. The Wolves need free throws to keep their offense rolling with any degree of efficiency.

It would be nice to actually have a good night shooting threes, and getting Zach LaVine in there as the shooting guard could help in this area, but the Wolves simply don't look for that shot much and don't shoot it well enough.

This is the start of a three game homestand that also includes games against the Sixers and Hawks. It's pretty incredible that the Wolves are 5-2 on the road but winless at home. All three of these games are winnable, and they really need to start establishing something at Target Center. The Pistons are a good team but also a team the Wolves need to beat at home if they are going to take the steps forward we are looking for this season.

We'll have a game thread up a half hour before game time. Meanwhile, today's blogging buddies are at Detroit Bad Boys. That link goes to their preview of tonight's tilt.

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