MINNEAPOLIS – Sam Mitchell talked about playing with a sense of urgency before the game.
"We should be ticked off," he said. "It should be a concern that we haven't played well enough to win a game at home considering that we've beat some good teams on the road."
With that in mind, as the Wolves took the Target Center hardwood for their sixth home game of the season, searching to give hometown fans the showing they've been yearning for, they came out strong with what appeared to be the sense of urgency Mitchell was looking for.
The Wolves lead the Pistons after one quarter, 26-22.
Karl-Anthony Towns went to work quickly (8 points and five rebounds in the first 10 minutes) against one of the league's elite centers, Andre Drummond (19.1 ppg, 18.9 rpg, 1.4 blocks, and 24.69 PER). Detroit dared Towns to beat them with 18-footers, which he did in the opening minutes. This set him up for buckets off the dribble later on. Drummond had 4 points and 4 rebounds after playing all 12 minutes of the first and watching Towns dominate early was a wondrous way to start the affair.
The second quarter brought plenty of sloppy execution from both squads. Still, the Wolves were up 44-38 at halftime. Much of that had to do with Detroit's inability to hit from three, 2-13 at the break, along with the free throw disparity; Minnesota was 11-14 while the Pistons were 4-6.
Then came the second half, where the Wolves were outscored by 16. Andre Drummond scored 15 of his 21 points in the third (7-8 from the floor in the quarter), leading the Pistons to the 68-65 advantage heading into the fourth. It was another bad third quarter showing similar to the previous game in Orlando when they were outscored 33-24 after leading by 14 at halftime.
Look at the box score from the third tonight.
"He was getting it in deep," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said about Drummond. "Where he gets the ball is important, it is for any big guy, and we did a little better job at times getting him the ball in deep. When he gets it in there, he's pretty good."
Reggie Jackson scored 18 points, including a pair of beautiful drives to the hoop in the final minutes, perfectly splitting the defense, as the Pistons pulled away late in the game.
"We just decided to play defense," Jackson said. "We keyed in, we really did the things that we wanted to do. We tried to limit the spacing on the floor, tried to play tight defense."
"Andre was just great protecting the rim, stunting on pick and rolls along with Aron [Baynes], who really started us off, doing that all night," he continued. "Like I said, my teammates did a great job. They brought it defensively and the starters and the rest of us followed."
Rubio was asked about the Wolves home woes (0-6) afterwards.
"Maybe on the road we're more ready because nobody expects us to win," Rubio said. "We got nothing to lose. We go out there and play with more energy."
He also talked about having a sense of urgency at home, as Mitchell did beforehand. "We gotta figure out this thing soon because if not the season is going to be over before we know it," Rubio remarked. "That's not how a young team builds for the future, especially with the potential we have over here."
Zach LaVine scored 14 points off the bench, his eighth straight game in double figures. One of the biggest takeaways on the night was the inability to space the defense and play with pace, which is exactly what LaVine is good at right now.
The Wolves would be wise to make an adjustment to the starting lineup asap; shifting LaVine to starting shooting guard, Wiggins to the three, and Prince to the bench, where he can help steady the second unit with Andre Miller running the point (or not play at all if you care about the development of Shabazz Muhammad and don't see the point in giving minutes to a guy who won't be around down the road, though admittedly Prince has played well and he's still valuable to have as a glue guy that plays competent basketball).
A sense of urgency, at least in my eyes, is making the obvious move to help minimize the issues that are currently holding the Wolves back; Tayshaun Prince and Kevin Garnett bring no scoring punch to the starting unit – defenses are collapsing on Rubio, Wiggins, and Towns, basically begging the two unselfish veterans to shoot (but they are deferring every time) – and the second unit has become an isolation fest after running the shot clock down to 12 seconds standing around trying to figure out who wants to take their defender 1-on-1.
Both Rubio and Wiggins pointed towards the pace of the game as reasons for the loss; another reason for moving LaVine, who can wreak havoc in transition, to the starting lineup.
"We played their pace tonight," Rubio said. "They controlled the tempo of the game, part is my fault and part is our defense wasn't good enough. ... It's not the pace that we want to play. We want to play an up-tempo game, we're young, we can run, and how we're good is in the open court. We know that, we just have to do it."
LaVine knocked down a pair of three's, his fifth straight game with multiple three-pointers. He's shooting 45.2 percent from deep over the last eight games. Pace-and-space. LaVine. Urgency. I'll have more on this topic in the next week.
In the end, the Wolves remain winless at home and more of the same issues that have plagued the team in their eight losses showed up. Right now... home is where the hurt is.
- Andrew Wiggins tallied his fifth straight 20+ point game and seventh of the season, finishing with 21 points on 7-17 shooting. Wiggins attempted 11 free throws, his third straight game with 10 or more free throw attempts, the longest streak of his career. Wiggins is averaging 25.4 points per game over his last eight games.
wiggy wiggy wiggy pic.twitter.com/1KXPqCeFDV— James Herbert (@outsidethenba) November 21, 2015
- Towns finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, a season-high three steals, and two blocked shots in 28 minutes. Coming off blocking a season-high six shots vs. Orlando, tonight was Towns' eighth game with multiple blocked shots.
- Minnesota held Detroit to 6-28 from three-point range, but finished 3-13 themselves. More of the same.
- Drummond finished with his 12th straight double-double (21 points and 11 rebounds). He was 10-13 from the floor.
- Marcus Morris had his second double-double of the season, finishing with 16 points and 11 rebounds.