Over Early

Pistons lose 8th straight road game after falling down 20 first quarter


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

WHITE HOT – Minnesota jumped to a 20-point lead before the first quarter was over and was never challenged in handing the Pistons their eighth straight road loss, 114-101. The Pistons, who trailed by 28 points after three quarters, were gashed defensively early and often as the Timberwolves scored early in transition and dominated the offensive glass, scoring 36 points in the paint by halftime on their way to 54 for the game. Kevin Love finished with 28 points and 14 rebounds and Kevin Martin added 24 for Minnesota.

BLUE COLLAR – Greg Monroe showed evidence of frustration early as he was hit with two early fouls and felt he didn’t get a few calls on missed shots near the rim. He picked up a technical foul midway through the first quarter and shot 2 of 9 in the first half. But Monroe played hard even as Detroit’s deficit mounted. He finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds and made 6 of 8 shots in the second half.

RED FLAG – The Pistons already trailed 27-11 in the first quarter and had both Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond on the bench with two fouls when Josh Smith went to the foul line and missed both free throws. The red flag came when the Timberwolves scored a transition layup off of the free throw miss. That can’t happen.

MINNEAPOLIS – Remember back in December when the Pistons went 6-1 over a stretch of seven road games? That seems like a very long time ago. The Pistons lost their eighth straight roadie Friday at Minnesota. Like their last game away from The Palace – last Saturday at Houston – they got buried early, virtually ceding any chance for a win long before the first quarter was over.

“It’s always surprising when you don’t play your best and we didn’t play our best,” John Loyer said after the 114-101 loss to the Timberwolves. “We probably had our best shootaround or second best in my 12 games here, had a good little practice yesterday. We need to do a better job of starting the game. They’re the No. 1 first-quarter team in the league and we talked about that this morning. You’ve got to get off to a better start. You-can’t play catch-up against a team with that many offensive weapons.”

Minnesota scored inside at will and in transition with ease to burst to a double-digits lead less than seven minutes after tipoff. It was a 20-point deficit before the 10-minute mark. It was 30 before the third quarter was out. The Pistons outscored Minnesota 32-17 in the fourth quarter to make the final score as close as the game had been since midway through the first quarter.

“We came out flat and they came out and jumped on us, so that’s what happens,” said Greg Monroe, who led the Pistons with 20 points and 15 rebounds despite a frustrating start that saw him pick up two quick fouls and a technical. “You get a deficit, especially when you’re playing a team at home. That’s really it. We came out flat.”

"We came out flat and they came out and jumped on us."

- John Loyer on the game
Full game quotes
Minnesota scored nine fast-break points in the first nine minutes of the game – the Pistons allow an average of 13 a game – and grabbed six offensive rebounds in the first quarter. If there was a loose ball, the Timberwolves got to it first. It was a thoroughly disappointing performance for a team that talked before tipoff about the importance of every game to their playoff viability.

“Coming into the game, Coach does a great job of getting us prepared for our opponent,” Josh Smith said. “Gives us all the strengths and weaknesses of each and every player. It is a little disheartening that we can’t be able to apply that to the game.”

The Pistons gave up 39 points in the first quarter – they gave up 41 at Houston last week – and when your defense is that porous the offensive inevitably suffers for it. At halftime, the Pistons had four assists and five turnovers.

“Sometimes when you don’t guard, you get so demoralized watching them scoring, you keep taking it out of the net, which makes you play half-court offense,” Loyer said. “Sometimes your offense dictates your defense. Tonight, our lack of defense, especially in that first half, dictated our offense. It’s pretty hard to have great pace if you’re so lackadaisical on the defensive end – which we were.”

The game pitted the second- and third-leading rebounders in the NBA in Minnesota’s Kevin Love and Andre Drummond of the Pistons. Love played like the All-Star he is, finishing with 28 points, 14 rebounds and five assists.

Drummond, after grabbing a career-best 26 rebounds and playing more than 46 minutes in Monday’s win over New York, has now managed only 14 rebounds in the past two games after Friday’s six-point, seven-rebound performance. Drummond had two points and one rebound in 17 minutes before putting up numbers in the last seven minutes. Again, he got in early foul trouble.

Loyer went with little-used players like Gigi Datome and Charlie Villanueva in the second half, bypassing Rodney Stuckey in favor of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope early in the third quarter when Drummond picked up a fourth foul. Will Bynum led the fourth-quarter charge that saw the Pistons get within 11 points, scoring all of his 17 points.

Loyer said Stuckey was healthy “as far as I know,” he “just decided to” go with Caldwell-Pope. He said he’ll review the videotape but isn’t inclined to write off the fourth-quarter rally by the shock troops just because it came with the game out of hand. After Minnesota scored just two points in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, Rick Adelman sent Love and the rest of his starters back into the game.

“Every minute matters to me,” Loyer said. “It mattered to them. They brought their starters back. It went from 30 to 20 to 15 to 13. They must have felt they were meaningful minutes because they brought their guys back. I take a lot out of it. We had some guys show some fight down the stretch. Our guys don’t pack it in. They want to compete and they want to play. I’d be a fool if I didn’t (consider their comeback in deciding future playing time). I’ll go back and watch it and file even more away.”

The Pistons headed to Boston after the game, where they’ll play the Celtics on Sunday. The last time they were there, they came back from 21 down to win, a healthy reminder of the value of fighting even when things look bleak. With 20 games to play, their playoff chances are taking on a similar look. If there’s fight left in them, Boston will be a good place to unleash it.