With four straight upcoming games against opponents with losing records, Detroit Pistons coach Flip Saunders can afford to give his team some hard-earned rest.

Saunders makes his third trip back to the Target Center with Detroit as his Central Division champion Pistons visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.

Detroit (52-21) trails only Boston in the NBA standings, but the Celtics hold a six-game lead in the race for the best record with only nine games left for both teams.

If that doesn't give the Pistons incentive, their next four opponents certainly won't. After visiting Minnesota (19-53), Detroit plays New Jersey, Miami and New York - all teams at least 12 games below .500.

With that in mind, Saunders plans to give plenty of playing time to his reserves Tuesday and may give stars like Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton some rest, if not the whole night off.

"We're going to give our young guys a lot of minutes," Saunders told the Pistons' official Web site. "It'll be young guys against young guys."

It won't be as emotional a trip for Saunders as it was two seasons ago, when he returned to face Kevin Garnett and Minnesota for the first time since being fired by the Timberwolves midway through his 10th season with the club in 2004-05.

Saunders, who is a University of Minnesota graduate, was in Minneapolis last summer and saw the I-35 bridge collapse - a memory he still thinks about from time to time.

"I don't have nightmares, but there are times you think about it a lot," he said. "There are times when I've been on the road - for instance, when you go to Portland, there's a lot of bridges - where I woke up having a dream about a bridge in Portland collapsing."

This is the first time Saunders will face Minnesota since Garnett was traded to Boston. Saunders is 3-1 against the Timberwolves, who have used mostly young players this season after losing their superstar.

Minnesota is improving despite its poor overall record, with wins in seven of its last 12 games. The Timberwolves earned a victory over a West contender Sunday - 110-103 over Utah for their second straight home win against the Jazz.

"We're getting better and better," said Minnesota forward Al Jefferson, who scored 22 points. "To beat a team like this (at home) two games in a row, that says a lot."

Jefferson is among the league leaders with 50 double-doubles. He is hoping to finish the season strong after averaging 19.4 points in March - his lowest average in any month this season.

The Pistons are trying to avoid losing four straight road games for the first time since March 3-11, 2005.


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