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Wolves vs Detroit: Runaway Train

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Can the Wolves slow down the Pistons?

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Minnesota Timberwolves Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Timberwolves (30-34) at Detroit Pistons (31-31)
FS North
6:00 CST

After a strong win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Wolves will be hard-pressed to continue their winning ways against the Detroit Pistons. The Wolves certainly played a great game last night, fueled by Karl-Anthony Towns’ continued domination. However, on the second night of a back-to-back, on the road, without Robert Covington and Luol Deng, and against the surging Pistons, the Wolves have their work cut out for them.

The Pistons have had the best record in the NBA over the last 10 games, going 8-2 with a league-best 9.4 net rating. This has been largely fueled by their output on offense, as they hold a league-high 117.4 offensive rating over this time. The Wolves are somehow second in the NBA in offensive rating over this period. I’m not sure how that went unnoticed, perhaps it has something to do with a 2nd worst defensive rating in the same time period.

The Pistons have been galvanized by Wayne Ellington, who signed with the Pistons on February 9th off the buyout market. Ellington has added some much-needed long-range marksmanship to the Pistons, launching 7.4 threes per game, making 37 percent of them, in his eight games with the Pistons.

As a result, the Pistons have really had the benefit of a rising tide lifting all ships. Reggie Jackson has had more room to operate and run his pick-and-roll game with Andre Drummond, who is killing it now. Blake Griffin has had some of the weight lifted off his shoulders, but is still able to continue serving as the fulcrum of the offense.

The Pistons are now tied with the Brooklyn Nets for the 6th seed, something that they will strive to hang onto. A playoff matchup with the Pacers certainly looks a lot more appealing than facing the Raptors.

For the Wolves, everything begins and ends with Karl-Anthony Towns. What Towns is doing over the last five game stretch is nothing short of incredible. He has been averaging 36.4 points and 16 rebounds per game, all while dropping dimes and shooting above 60 percent. He has also been getting the advantage on several players that previously gave Towns trouble, such as Steven Adams. Tonight is another opportunity for revenge, as the lumbering Andre Drummond has always been a challenge for Towns to manage.

However, if KAT can get Drummond into foul trouble, perhaps he can stall the pick-and-roll system that drives the Pistons.

The other interesting matchup tonight will be the power forward spot. Ryan Saunders has been starting Dario Saric and giving him a lot of run, but Saric will have to compete with one of the most complete offensive weapons in the NBA at power forward that is legitimately built like a power forward.

Saric is likely better suited to guard players like Griffin compared to teams that put guys like Harrison Barnes or other stretch wings at the four spot, but there is a decent chance that Taj Gibson is direly needed to clamp down on Griffin as much as possible.

The Wolves are also going to have to contain Reggie Jackson, who will likely fall to Josh Okogie to guard, with Jeff Teague chasing around Wayne Ellington.

Which Andrew Wiggins will appear tonight? He will either have Wayne Ellington of Bruce Brown Jr guarding him. The opportunity is ripe.

Projected Starting Lineups

Timberwolves

Jeff Teague
Josh Okogie
Andrew Wiggins
Dario Saric
Karl-Anthony Towns

Pistons

Reggie Jackson
Wayne Ellington
Bruce Brown Jr.
Blake Griffin
Andre Drummon

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