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Game Preview #52: Wolves at Pistons

Minnesota starts a pivotal stretch in Detroit

Detroit Pistons v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Game Info:

Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (26-25) at Detroit Pistons (12-38)

When: 6:00pm CST

TV: Bally Sports North

Radio: 830 WCCO AM Radio

Line: Wolves -7

What To Watch For:

The vibes are high right now, as the Timberwolves enter a portion of the schedule ripe with opportunity. The first game of a home-and-home with the Pistons kicks off a stretch where fans can realistically hope to win four more games in a row.

We’ve been down that road before though, and it’s just not the way the regular season in the NBA works. If you take teams that you perceive to be beneath you lightly, you get beat. That’s especially relevant for a unit that is getting better at handling success at the NBA level, but just hasn’t had a lot of it before this season.

That’s why, while many (including me), have brought up this soft part of the schedule, I’m much less interested in who the Timberwolves are playing as opposed to the professionalism and focus they show. It’s classic coach-speak, but if the Timberwolves worry about executing their game plan for the next two weeks, the results will take care of themselves organically.

As of writing it is still unclear who will be available on each side, but in reality it should not matter that much. If the Wolves bench continues to give them a major lift, they’re going to be alright. If Karl-Anthony Towns continues to attack of the catch to take advantage of the respect he gets as a shooter, the Wolves will be alright. If Jarred Vanderbilt and Jaden McDaniels continue to play their usual outstanding defense while making timely contributions on offense, this team will be just fine.

That’s the kind of stuff I’m most interested in tonight. Selfishly, I’d like Cade Cunningham (hip) to play in these games because he’s a lot of fun to watch, but either way Minnesota needs to come ready to defend. The Pistons have the fifth-highest turnover-rate in the league. This is a team that, if Minnesota comes ready to play, the Wolves can turnover and get out in transition on. Additionally, Detroit is an incredibly poor shooting team, ranking 29th in TS% and eFG%. Minnesota’s defense should carry them.

That is the kind of specific on-court activity I’m looking for this evening. If Minnesota flies around defensively, good things will happen. If they take their opponent lightly, as they have been prone to do in the past, things could get tight.

Injury Reports:

The injury report looks similar to the way it did Tuesday, with Beverley available and both Russell an Okogie out. I’d imagine Beverley will once again be on a minutes restriction, but you never know. Whoever they can get back in the backcourt will obviously give a lift, but the nature specifically of Beverley and Russell’s injuries are somewhat vague, making it hard to predict. Thankfully, the recent play of Jordan McLaughlin has allowed Minnesota to take it slow with both members of their starting backcourt.

As mentioned earlier, I’d like to see Cunningham play because 1) I hope he’s healthy and 2) he’s fun to watch play basketball, but he’s out tonight, and it’s clearly a break for the Timberwolves. The Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month averaged 17/4/6/1/1 and is starting to find his groove.

The vibes are good right now, so I’m going to let myself risk some optimism here. Give me the Wolves -7. Also, I haven’t looked at any props, but I have to imagine Anthony Edwards busts out of a mini-slump with a big night scoring the basketball.