clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Game Preview #40: Wolves at Pistons

Anthony Edwards and the Timberwolves hit the road for a one-game trip in Detroit, where they’ll take on Bojan Bogdanovic and the last-place Pistons.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Detroit Pistons Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert and the Minnesota Timberwolves will be back in action on Wednesday night as they hit the road for a one-game trip in the Motor City, where they’ll take on the 4-36 Detroit Pistons, who will be without their best player, point guard Cade Cunningham (left knee strain).

The good news for Detroit is that they did end a seven-game losing streak without Cunningham and Bojan Bogdanovic (left calf soreness). The Pistons on Monday defeated the Washington Wizards, with whom they executed a trade last week that sent Marvin Bagley III, Isaiah Livers and two future second-round picks to D.C. in exchange for Danillo Gallinari and Roseville native Mike Muscala. Both of the new Pistons are questionable for Wednesday’s contest as a result of the move.


Game Info

  • Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (28-11) at Detroit Pistons (4-36)
  • When: Wednesday, January 17 at 6:00 PM CT
  • Where: Little Caesars Arena — Detroit, MI
  • TV: Bally Sports North (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Lea B. Olsen)
  • Radio: Wolves Radio App, KFAN FM 100.3
  • Line: Wolves -11.5, Total: 222 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)

Injury Report

Updated as of Wednesday 1/17 at 4:35 PM CT:

Minnesota

AVAILABLE

  • Anthony Edwards (left knee tendonitis)

OUT:

  • Jaylen Clark (right achilles tendon rupture rehab)
  • Leonard Miller (G League assignment)
  • Josh Minott (G League assignment)

Detroit

AVAILABLE:

  • Bojan Bogdanović (left calf soreness)
  • Danilo Gallinari (trade pending)
  • Mike Muscala (trade pending)

OUT

  • Malcolm Cazalon (two-way contract)
  • Cade Cunningham (left knee strain)
  • Monte Morris (right quadriceps strain)
  • Jared Rhoden (two-way contract)

What To Watch For

Minnesota Timberwolves v Detroit Pistons Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

Sitting Anthony Edwards

Edwards is questionable with “left knee tendonitis,” which comes on the heels of the former No. 1 overall pick on Sunday playing through what the team called a “left knee contusion.” He did pretty well at less than 100%, registering a cool 33 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in 38 minutes in 109-105 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Keep in mind that tendonitis is different from the “left patella tendinopathy” injury that caused Edwards to miss time during the 2021-22 season; while yes, it is the same knee experiencing discomfort, the issue is different.

With that said, this would be a great spot to get Ant a night off on the front end of a road/home back-to-back. Edwards has more than earned a day off, and with two days in between games for the first time in over a month, sitting on Wednesday would give Ant a nice three-day break before a national TV game at Target Center on Thursday, and help keep him fresh ahead of a huge game on Saturday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Pistons is are a truly awful NBA team that have struggled to beat just about everybody, from mediocre teams at full strength, to great ones resting stars, to bad teams resting stars and every team in between. An aggravation of the injury against a Pistons team without Cunningham would certainly be problematic; but if the Wolves’ training staff feels good about him playing on both ends of the back-to-back, then we all should, too.

Not to mention, Minnesota is 8-2 in their last 10 games without Edwards, including 2-1 this season. With Karl-Anthony Towns back in the fold, the Wolves are much better equipped to sustain a level of play high enough to beat even the worst the NBA has to offer even without Edwards.

Detroit Pistons v Washington Wizards Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

“Don’t Be That Team”

Ironically, the person who tweeted that about playing the Pistons was.... Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma, who seems to way too frequently tweet checks his play — and team — can’t cash.

While the Pistons sweeping the Wolves last season was certainly a disaster for Minnesota’s hopes of making the playoffs without having to go through the Play-In Tournament, it would pale in comparison to losing to a team that is on track to be one of the worst in league history, while in the midst of a historic regular season run those around Mayo Clinic Square are hoping will end in the Wolves locking up home-court advantage in the playoffs.

Minnesota has gone 709 days without defeating Detroit. Naz Reid played only 10 minutes in that game. Malik Beasley scored 20 points and led the team with a +20 mark in just 22 minutes. 2023 Wolves Trade Deadline target and Wolves Killer™ Saddiq Bey led the Pistons with 24 points with Trey Lyles’ 16 points earning him a silver on the scoring podium. Leandro Bolmaro was catching DNP-CD’s.

In the two teams’ most recent meeting, Bey again led the Pistons to a 135-118 win (this time with 31 points), while Jaylen Nowell, Bryn Forbes, Nate Knight, and Matt Ryan all played at least nine minutes off the bench. Edwards was ruled out mid-game before returning in a game that was all but wrapped up in one of the more bizarre Wolves occurrences in recent memory.

The point here is that this Timberwolves team is a very different one than what we saw in those two matchups. A resounding, business-like win such as the one we saw last Friday at Target Center would add another bullet point in the argument supporting that notion, as these Wolves continue to achieve things that packs before them have failed to accomplish.

Los Angeles Clippers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Slow It Down, Dominate in the Half-Court

The gameplan doesn’t need to be much different than it was on Friday, when the Wolves absolutely dominated the Portland Trail Blazers 116-93. Detroit ranks 29th in half-court offensive rating (92.0), ahead of only the Blazers.

But what both teams do well is offensive rebound; Portland ranks fifth (29.9%), while Detroit ranks 11th (28.5%). While the Blazers securing 10 offensive boards for 13 second chance points may look bad on the surface, when you consider they missed 47 shots (39% field goal percentage) plus 11 free throws, Portland’s 24.5% offensive rebound rate (36th percentile per Cleaning the Glass) doesn’t look so bad.

Detroit registered half-court offensive ratings of at least 106.4 (71st percentile) in three of their four wins, with overall offensive ratings north of 126.5 (79th percentile) in those games. Offensive rebounding was a key part of that, as they had offensive rebound rates north of the 71st percentile (33.3%) in three of those four wins. Head Coach Monty Williams’ group is 1-24 when they rebound less than 33% of their misses, so Gobert, Towns and Co. will need to deliver on the boards.

With Detroit getting some firepower back in Bojan Bogdanović (whom Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert know well from their Utah Jazz days), Minnesota will need to slow the game down and use their length to make it difficult for Bosnian native, who is averaging a strong 19.8 points per game on 46.7/40.7/74.6 shooting splits. The less the Pistons can rely upon their athleticism in transition (Jaden Ivey, Ausar Thomson and Jalen Duren, especially) and the more defenses force them into taking jump shots, the better.

Detroit ranks second-worst in 3-point attempts (30.7), third-worst in 3-point percentage (34.5%), and second-worst in effective field goal percentage on jump shots (48.6%), per Synergy. The Wolves are undefeated against the other teams they have played in the bottom-12 (Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs, Charlotte Hornets, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland, Houston Rockets, and Utah Jazz).