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Wolves vs. Pistons Game Preview: Good Defense Coming to Target Center

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The Wolves host the Pistons on the second night of a back to back.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves (6-16) vs. Pistons (12-12)
7:00 pm CST, Target Center
FS North

So far, the Wolves have been quite successful on the second nights of back-to-backs; indeed four of their six wins this season have been such games. They have another test tonight, welcoming the Detroit Pistons to town after last night’s loss in Toronto.

The Pistons come in with the league’s top rated defense, highlighted by allowing the lowest opponent eFG percentage in the NBA. Much like Tom Thibodeau’s vaunted Bulls defenses, they don’t force a lot of turnovers, but they give you nothing in terms of easy looks. They do this by forcing everything to the mid-range. Thanks to the presence of Andre Drummond and Aron Baynes (!), they allow the third lowest percentage of field goal attempts at the rim in the league, but also manage to limit both three-point attempts and three-point percentage to among the lowest as well.

While anything can happen in any game, this feels like an uncomfortable match-up for the Wolves; The Pistons are a big, bruising team, the kind that gives them trouble. The Pistons play slow and play physical, and do not give up anything easy. They manage to do this without excessive fouling as well, which is bad news for a Wolves team that relies on getting to the free throw line. Transition points will probably be hard to come by, as they don’t turn the ball over much. In other words, the Pistons usually make you grind it out, which is not the Wolves’ forte.

The Pistons struggle on offense, however. They feature a very balanced attack with six players averaging double figures, led by Tobias Harris at 17 per game. Overall, however, they have only the 20th rated offense in the league, and struggle to shoot effectively from the field. In some ways, their offense mirrors their defense: As they force other teams into the mid-range, they themselves lead the league in percentage of field goal attempts from three to 16’ feet.

Their losses usually feature dreadful shooting. They are coming off just such a loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night, a game in which they held the Hornets to 87 points on 34 percent shooting, but scored only 77 themselves while shooting 38 percent overall and a disastrous 4-27 from three.

The Pistons have lost two of their last three as they try to work Reggie Jackson back into the starting lineup following his injury.

The Wolves meanwhile continue to struggle, particularly defensively, where they have yet to demonstrate any ability to provide resistance at the rim or indeed get stops with any kind of consistency.

On the bright side, Zach LaVine has his game rolling, making shots and, more impressively, making good choices with the ball. He’s been playing a lot with the bench unit of Kris Dunn, Shabazz Muhammad, Nemanja Bjelica and Cole Aldrich, and has thrived there. That group has looked good over the past several games as Dunn and Aldrich in particular seem to be finding their footing.

There has been no indication, however, that the defense is going to turn the corner. They remain mired at the bottom of the league (27th overall) and give up the second highest opponent eFG percentage. This is largely the result of their sieve-like capacity to allow opponents to get to the rim, and the lack of resistance they meet when they get there. One imagines it’s keeping Thibs up nights.

In a one game sample you never know, but this could be a fairly ugly game. Two slow-paced teams, one that can’t shoot but grinds teams down with defense, another that relies on getting to the line and getting to the rim against a team that doesn’t permit either of those things. We’ll see how it goes.

Either way, ugly or pretty, the Wolves need a win. Hopefully they can come up with the formula tonight.

Expected Lineups

Pistons

Reggie jackson
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Marcus Morris
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Wolves

Ricky Rubio
Zach LaVine
Andrew Wiggins
Gorgui Dieng
Karl-Anthony Towns

Check out our blogging buddies over at Detroit Bad Boys, and have a great game day.