Pistons Crush Wolves In Saunders’ Return
Detroit 107, Minnesota 83
MINNEAPOLIS, Jan. 24 (Ticker) -- Flip Saunders showed everyone in the Twin Cities that he is doing just fine, thank you.
Chauncey Billups scored 18 of his 27 points in the third quarter and Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace added 15 points apiece as the Detroit Pistons won their eighth straight game, a 107-83 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
When Saunders was introduced, he received a standing ovation from the Target Center crowd.
"It was a great reception," Saunders said. "I have a lot of fond memories here that I won't forget."
Since taking over for Larry Brown in the "Motor City," Saunders has directed the Pistons to a franchise-best 34-5 start and will coach the Eastern Conference in next month's All-Star Game in Houston. He also is a leading candidate for Coach of the Year.
"I think that is all anyone wants at the end of the day, to be appreciated," said Minnesota forward Kevin Garnett, who scored 21 points. "With the ovation that (Flip) had tonight, it is good to see him appreciated."
Minnesota held a 46-45 advantage at halftime before Detroit unleashed its offense in the third quarter. The Pistons made an 14-of-24 shots, including 5-of-8 from the arc, to take the lead for good.
"Offensively, we did a great job of finding out where we had mismatches," Saunders said. "Defensively, we turned it up and that is what we do. We came out blazing in the second half. It went from a close game to a game that was almost over in a very short period of time."
The Timberwolves struggled after the break as they were outscored, 33-13, in the third period. Detroit held a 78-59 lead at the start of the fourth quarter and breezed thereafter.
"When we started, Chauncey said, 'I got your back,'" Saunders said. "At first I wasn't sure if he had my back or not, but when he gets hot like that, you can really get it going."
Billups - a former Timberwolf - made 9-of-20 shots, including 6-of-11 3-pointers. He also dished out eight assists and pulled down seven rebounds.
"The defense started going under me in the second quarter, so I knew that shot was going to be there for me," Billups said.
"Chauncey hit some tough shots, some shots that we were not prepared for," said Garnett, who grabbed 10 rebounds. "He slid behind a couple picks, we let him go, and he was hitting."
Antonio McDyess scored 16 points off the bench for the Pistons, who shot 60 percent (12-of-20) from the arc and held a 47-33 edge in rebounds.
Rookie Rashad McCants scored 14 points off the bench and Wally Szczerbiak added 13 for Minnesota, which shot 41 percent (33-of-79).