MINNEAPOLIS — Fresh of their sixth loss in seven games, the Wolves returned home to
Cherry Berry Arena Target Center to face the league’s top rated defensive team.
Yes, the Detroit Pistons—who finished 12th last season in defensive rating at 105.5 points per 100 possessions—are currently the best defensive team in the NBA through a quarter of the season (102.2). The 23-year-old behemoth, Andre Drummond, is the anchor that controls the paint.
The Big Penguin, his nickname according to basketball reference, is one of the best defensive players in the league right now. He’s currently first in both defensive win shares at 1.8 and defensive rating at 92.9. Drummond is also one of the most dominant rebounders in the game, ranking second in defensive rebound percentage (35.5) and ninth in offensive rebound percentage (12.7).
In short, he’s the backbone of the Pistons and on Friday night the Wolves had no answer for the fifth-year center out of the University of Connecticut who will almost certainly be headed to his second-straight All-Star game later this season.
Drummond ripped the Wolves for 22 points and 22 rebounds in 28 minutes in the Pistons 117-90 blowout win. This was his second consecutive 20/20 showing and third of the season. He grabbed eight offensive rebounds and finished 10-13 from the floor. It was clear almost immediately that the Wolves were going to struggle with him.
I figured Drummond was going to murder the Wolves on the offensive glass entering the game. Rudy Gobert did the same thing last Tuesday in Minneapolis, and the team has proven to be vulnerable on the offensive glass in recent games. Jonas Valanciunas and Lucas Nogueira combined for 10 offensive rebounds last night at the Air Canada Centre (Toronto grabbed 16 total) in the Wolves’ 124-110 loss on national television.
“He’s hard to deal with,” Thibs said. “They put good pressure on you and you have to put a body on him. Sometimes you got to get two on him. He’s going every time, and they do a good job with the pick-and-roll, and you’re going to be forced into some situations in which you’re going to have to veer back. If you veer back, the small has to get into his legs and take care of him. You can’t just let him go unimpeded to the rim, and so that’s something we have to get better at.”
Andre Drummond offensive rebound count: 8— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) December 10, 2016
Detroit had six players score in double-figures—all five starters, plus Minnesota native Jon Leuer (Orono) who added 17 points and five rebounds off the bench in 28 minutes. The Pistons hit 14-29 from deep while the Wolves went a putrid 3-16. It was a total domination in all regards on the back end of a back-to-back.
“I’m always concerned, yeah, very concerned,” Thibodeau said during his lengthy post-game presser after being asked if his message was not getting through to the team. “I’m going to keep coming. I don’t go away and I’m going to look at everything, re-examine. Something’s being missed, so it’s got to change.”
Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, his fourth straight double-double and 14th of the season. Towns blocked one shot, extending his streak of consecutive games with a block to a franchise-high 30 consecutive games. That’s great for the record books and all, but he didn’t play well defensively and that has become a theme of his sophomore season. There were multiple times Towns was a second too slow in closing out his man or finding his guy in transition. Thibs was clearly unhappy with these sequences.
Andrew Wiggins had a rough night in 27 minutes, scoring only 16 points on 16 shots and four free throw attempts. He added only two rebounds and no assists, steals, or blocks. There simply has to be more there, especially when the points aren’t coming in bunches. Zach LaVine added 14 points, five assists, and three rebounds. Gorgui Dieng added 13 points, seven rebounds, and three assists, while Ricky Rubio hit 4-5 from the field and finished with 10 points, six assists, and three rebounds in 28 minutes.
Rookie Kris Dunn showed glimpses early in the game on his way to eight points and five rebounds, but he finished -21 off the bench as the Pistons put their foot down in the fourth quarter and blew the game wide open. The bench, playing without Nemanja Bjelica, who missed the game with a sore right ankle, offered little to nothing.
“We didn’t close the half out well, and I think that was the big problem,” Thibodeau said. “And then you start the third quarter and miss a couple shots and then you don’t get back and it snowballs quick on you. The big thing was they put pressure on you. They’re a good team and we didn’t take anything away from them. They got layups, they got open threes; so it became a low-energy game and the one thing about that team plays really hard defense, so you better bring energy to your offense.”
In the end, the Wolves lost again at the hands of an incredibly underwhelming second half performance (outscored by 21 points). Drummond and the rest of the Pistons cruised to an easy road win, moving their record to 13-12. Aside from one excellent Rubio to Towns alley-oop, there wasn’t much else to get excited about as the Wolves continued their disappointed slide down the standings and back into an all too familiar place.
Ricky Rubio on the way they lost:
“Yeah, I mean we can accept making mistakes—not making shots, missing the open guy. But playing with no heart, no desire, it’s just awful. Right now it’s just bad.”
On what the team can control:
“Just playing hard. When thing aren’t working, we just have to keep trusting each other and do the right thing. I think expectations were high at the beginning of the season. Things weren’t going the way we wanted and I think we just need to realize that we have to do the basic stuff first before doing the next step. Basic stuff is just playing hard every night, bringing energy and playing defense. Sometimes it seems like we don’t play as a team on defense and that’s the worst thing that can happen because there’s a lot of 1-on-1 isolation. In this league, there’s a lot of great guys who can score and we need the five guys to play as one at the same time.”
On if coaching isn’t getting through:
“You can teach guys a lot of things but if you don’t play with heart, it doesn’t matter. I think we just have to really understand what coach wants and put it in play. In the league, there’s no magic formula. The guys have to want to do it and right now it seems like we’re playing selfish on both ends, and it’s not fun.”
Andrew Wiggins on playing hard:
“You can’t beg people to play hard. You just have to want it. Have a passion for the game, compete, play together.”
On where the Wolves go from here:
“We’ve got to find it within ourselves. There’s nothing that the coach can do, there’s nothing that the trainers can do. It’s just the players. We’ve got to find it within ourselves.”
On the way the team’s losing:
“We can’t just rely on scoring. We can score with the best of them, but you’ve got to play defense. You can’t just keep trading buckets.”
"This is our job. This is our passion. You got to come out and play and be ready. We all didn't do that. We have to be better. That's unacceptable and it's ugly.”