Bombs Away

Sizzling T-wolves defy form in rolling to 105-82 win over Pistons

TEAM COLORS

The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

White Hot – Minnesota came into Tuesday’s game last in the NBA in 3-point shooting at 29 percent, but the Timberwolves stroked four straight early in the third quarter to spark a dominant 38-16 quarter advantage. The Timberwolves made 12 of 20 from the arc in the second half alone as Minnesota went on to record a 105-82 win, the seventh straight home loss for the Pistons, who last won at The Palace on Feb. 13 over Washington. J.J. Barea led the Timberwolves with 21 points in 21 minutes off the bench, hitting 5 of 7 from the 3-point line.

BLUE COLLAR – Minnesota’s burly Nikola Pekovic has had some big games against the Pistons and he added another one to his log in this dominant Timberwolves win. Pekovic finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds in just 30 minutes, but the better measure of his effectiveness was the 14 points and eight rebounds he registered in a first half when points came grudgingly on both sides. Pekovic made his first seven shots. Greg Monroe recorded another double-double for the Pistons with 11 points and 12 rebounds in 29 minutes. Monroe also had four steals.

RED FLAG – The Pistons picked up just one assist in the entire first quarter, and that came on a lead pass in transition from Brandon Knight to Greg Monroe for a layup. That was an indication of how stagnant the Pistons were in their half-court offense. In the first half, the Pistons registered only five assists and only Charlie Villanueva, with two in seven minutes, had more than one. The Pistons finished with 18 assists with Villanueva leading them with four.

During a home losing drought that now stretches out nearly six weeks, the Pistons could at least say they had lost to all quality basketball teams. Until Tuesday night, at least. The Minnesota Timberwolves, whose season ran off the rails a long time ago due to an overwhelming run of injuries, outscored the Pistons by 22 in the third quarter and led by 28 after three quarters.

They heard those diehard home fans who’ve stuck with them through a disappointing season boo them off the floor at that point.

“They deserve to,” said Lawrence Frank, upbeat after the 1-1 road trip last weekend that included hanging tough with the rampaging Miami Heat and winning in the final minute against a Charlotte team that had won two straight and three of five, after the 105-82 final. “We get what we deserved. The fans that are coming out, these guys are loyal fans. We have 24 wins and we only have a handful of home games left. These guys are loyalists. We deserve to be booed. That comes with the territory. We have to give them a better product and we didn’t do it tonight.”

The last Pistons win at The Palace came on Feb. 13, before the All-Star break, when they beat Washington. Since, they’ve lost to five certain playoff teams – Memphis, Indiana, Atlanta, New York and Brooklyn – with a sixth loss to the Dallas Mavericks, still on the fringes of Western Conference playoff contention.

But their seventh straight home loss came against a team that’s had All-Star Kevin Love for only 18 games all season and has missed other key players – Nikola Pekovic, Chase Budinger and Andrei Kirilenko, foremost – for long stretches.

There were signs of trouble from the start for the Pistons, who couldn’t open up a lead on Minnesota early even when the Timberwolves were committing six turnovers in the first eight minutes. The Pistons, coming off a game in which they registered 31 assists on 36 baskets at Charlotte, recorded one solitary assist in the first quarter, a measure of how disjointed their half-court offense was.

“That just shows the ball wasn’t moving,” Jason Maxiell said. “It was sticking a little too much and we weren’t knocking down shots at the same time.”

Minnesota’s offense was only marginally more productive, though, and the Timberwolves carried a precarious six-point lead to halftime largely on the massive shoulders of Pekovic, who put up 14 points and eight rebounds – big numbers in a half that finished with a modest score of 44-38.

Then Minnesota, with the Pistons turning from disjointed to frustrated in the second half, went on an atypical shooting spree, matching Detroit’s 38 first-half points in the third quarter alone. The NBA’s worst 3-point shooting team at 29 percent, Minnesota made 12 of 20 from the arc in the second half and finished with 14 for the game, nearly three times its normal production.

“How many of ’em were contested? Not too many,” Frank asked and answered. “Not too many. I could tell you how each of them happened, too. We talked about the last two games with our ball movement and our trust, we didn’t put a whole lot into the game offensively. We didn’t do a lot to help each other. We missed some shots, yes, but we were walking into actions, not sprinting into screens, not holding screens, not rolling hard to the basket. We got frustrated, we didn’t make shots, had a bunch of (low-clock) situations and defensively we just totally … so many breakdowns.”

If good defense can lead to efficient offense, then this was a night where lousy offense led to leaky defense.

“You have to have the mental mind-set to push through that,” Maxiell said, “and focus on the game and get some stops.”

Seven Timberwolves contributed to the 3-point assault with J.J. Barea, who led Minnesota with 21 points in 21 minutes off the bench, hitting 5 of 7. Ricky Rubio, who shoots under 20 percent from the arc and had made 11 triples all season, hit 2 of 2. In the third quarter, Minnesota hit 7 of 9 triples – one more make from the arc than the Pistons had from anywhere during that period.

“We just didn’t guard,” said Pistons rookie Kim English, who played the whole fourth quarter when Frank cleared his bench. “Maybe it was from us getting down on missed shots, but we didn’t guard the way we know we can. We’ve got to get better on the defensive end.”

Said Frank, “We just didn’t show a lot of resolve tonight.”