Pistons (10-5) at Wolves (10-5)
6:00 pm CT
The Detroit Pistons roll into Minneapolis tonight on the last leg of a three-game road trip. The first two of those games resulted in losses to a pair of formidable Eastern conference teams (the Bucks and Pacers), and even following those losses the Pistons still find themselves tied for second in the East with Toronto. They’ll play a Wolves squad at home that’s made recent strides on defense and appears to be much different team compared to the first matchup between these two back in October.
When the Wolves played at Detroit a few weeks ago, the Pistons put on a clinic of how to exploit their weak transition defense and rotations — shooting 44% from long range while also owning the boards with 47 compared to Minnesota’s 37.
The good news for Wolves fans this time around is that Tobias Harris has been relatively quiet of late. He went just 1-5 from three against the Pacers and 4-11 against the Bucks. Considering the fact that he put up 34 points on 14-24 shooting (and 6-9 from three) in the previous matchup with the Wolves, this is good news. Harris looked like the piece Detroit has been missing — and still might be — but hopefully the Wolves and their recent (mild) defensive success can help put a stop to Harris heating up.
This is all not to mention that Jimmy Butler was absent the last time these two teams met. Coming into the season, we all knew Butler was going to be integral to this team’s path toward success, but that notion was strongly emphasized when the Wolves suffered two very bad back-to-back losses against the Pacers and Pistons.
As if you needed the numbers to back this claim, Basketball-Reference confirms that the Wolves are much better with him on the court, with higher rebound-, assist- and steal-percentages in addition to a higher overall offensive rating and lower defensive rating.
Speaking of defensive rating, the Wolves appear to slowly be making their way toward where they should be on that end of the floor. Where not very long ago they were the worst in the league in terms of defensive rating, they’ve gradually climbed their way to 22nd in the league — which is still not commendable, but if nothing else it shows some mild progress early on in the year. This progress has shown in the past two games where they held both Dallas and San Antonio to under 90 points.
While these two teams appear to be relatively evenly matched at this point in the season, this is a team the Wolves should be able to beat at home after a day of rest. Andre Drummond (who leads the league in rebounding with 15.7/game) will cause problems on the glass for Towns and Avery Bradley will exercise his aggressive persistence on both ends of the floor, but if the Wolves can keep Tobias Harris in check and not give up the number of transition threes they did last game they should come out on top.
Projected Starting Lineups
Wolves: Jeff Teague, Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, Taj Gibson, Karl-Anthony Towns
Pistons: Reggie Jackson, Avery Bradley, Stanley Johnson, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond
Prediction: Wolves 112, Pistons 103
The Wolves continue to figure it out on defense and hold Harris in check from deep.