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Wolves vs. Pistons Preview: A Coaching Battle

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Thibs’ decisions on the front line will play a pivotal role in tonight's Wolves/Piston affair.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Minnesota Timberwolves Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves (14-16) vs Pistons (14-14)

7:00 pm CST

FS North

Fresh off of a stellar outing on Monday night, Minnesota looks to make it a 2-0 mini-home stand against another potential playoff team.

With the heavy powers at the top of the Eastern Conference, Detroit can be a forgotten team in today’s NBA. However, they are right there in the playoff picture at sixth, currently, needing to rack up W’s to hold their spot from surprising teams such as Orlando and Brooklyn as well as disappointing teams like Washington.

Miami is on the outside looking in at the moment, but I’m certain that Miami will make a late run to the postseason after how often I heard that they held all the cards in Jimmy Butler trade negotiations. What does that have to do with tonight’s game? Well, nothing. I just really wanted to make fun of the Heat.

Anyways, the point is that this is an important game for both teams. The Wolves have the deeper roster even with Jeff Teague out again tonight. That would lead you to think that the Wolves should win tonight, but we all know how that kind of thing tends to go.

For Minnesota to pull out the victory tonight, the very most important thing tonight is going to be rebounding. It hasn’t reared its ugly head as much recently, but rest assured the rebounding woes from earlier this season are still there somewhere. If anyone is going to attack that potential weakness, it’s Andre Drummond.

Drummond is one of, if not the very best rebounders in the association. He has not averaged less than 13.2 rebounds per game since his rookie year, has led the league in rebounding two of the past three years, and currently leads the NBA at a ridiculous 15.5 rebounds per game.

The part that worries us the most, obviously, is the offensive glass where Drummond averages 5.8 (!!) offensive rebounds per game. That’s nuts!

I’m not exactly sure how Minnesota will matchup Taj/KAT between Drummond and Blake Griffin, but whoever ends up on Drummond needs to be disciplined enough to block him out on every single possession. For that reason alone, I kind of hope Taj gets the matchup to start the game, but he is also probably too small to check Drummond on his own.

This leads into the other area that I’m interested to see tonight: the front court matchups tonight. As stated above, Drummond causes problems for Minnesota’s regular rotation. KAT has improved leaps and bounds as a rim protector, but his tendency to leave his man to go challenge a shot would leave Drummond open as an offensive rebounder.

I have no doubt that Taj would give the required effort and stay disciplined on Drummond, but he is giving up a ton of size.

The other problem with putting Gibson on Drummond is that it leaves Towns on Blake Griffin. Griffin, at this point in his career, is basically a big 6’10” pseduo-point guard. He’s developed a reliable three-point jumper and has long been one of the better passing bigs in the NBA.

I worry about Towns ability to defend Blake consistently on the perimeter and against his drives without getting into foul trouble.

To be clear, Minnesota is the better team overall and has a much deeper roster than Detroit. That isn’t always how games play out though. Matchups obviously matter. If the Wolves are to win tonight, they’ll need to find a way to neutralize the disadvantages that the Piston’s front line might cause. Do I trust Thibs to out-coach Dwayne Casey? Absolutely not.

A few other things to watch for:

  • Tyus had what was probably his best game of the season on Monday night when he got to lead to second unit all on his own. If this is a trend that continues as long as Teague is out, Minnesota will have to think long and hard about finding a place to dump Teague in favor of Rose and Tyus.
  • Speaking of Rose, D-Rose made a decent case to be the starting point guard on Monday night. The efficiency will surely slip a bit at some point, but he dished out double digit assists and led the team to one of their best performances of the season. He gets another shot at it tonight.
  • There are countless reasons to love Josh Okogie. This just might be reason number one right here

Projected Lineups


Derrick Rose

Andrew Wiggins

Robert Covington

Taj Gibson

Karl-Anthony Towns


Reggie Jackson

Luke Kennard

Reggie Bullock

Blake Griffin

Andre Drummond