Wolves Handle Pistons 95-76
And that’s exactly how it ended up, but not without a little drama in between. The Wolves won their NBA Canada Series matchup with Detroit 95-76, but the Pistons carved into that 23-point cushion to the tune of a 21-1 run to begin the third, forcing Minnesota to regroup and refocus before pulling away minutes later.
“Teams are going to have runs,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “In our league, runs happen all the time. You’ve got to be able to respond to it. I think sometimes it’s good, especially in exhibitions it’s not going to be easy in the second half as it was in the first. But like I said, we responded and we opened it back up.”
Minnesota rolled through the first thanks in part to Detroit’s rough start from the field. The Pistons had three field goals in the first and finished the half 9-for-33 from the floor. Minnesota, meanwhile, held a 28-10 advantage in the paint and a 10-1 edge in second chance points. That led to a 29-point lead at one point.
The third quarter was a different story.
Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey came alive, shooting 4-of-5 and pouring in 13 points during the frame, and the Pistons benefited from getting to the line 12 times and knocking down a pair of 3-pointerse during their run. The Wolves opened up the quarter shooting 0-for-6 and committed four turnovers in the first seven minutes.
But when the Pistons cut the lead to 53-50 on a Stuckey 3-pointer, the Wolves fought back. Beginning with a Nikola Pekovic lay-up from Andrei Kirilenko, the Wolves began a 15-3 run that put them back in control. Kirilenko and Dante Cunningham were each big parts of that initial turnaround, scoring the team’s next eight points after Pekovic’s basket broke the 21-1 run.
Chase Budinger led the team with 21 points, while Derrick Williams finished with 18 points and Pekovic added 14 points and nine rebounds. Cunningham, who played 25:57 off the bench while splitting time with Williams, grabbed a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds—including three offensive boards that led to second chance points. Cunningham was again efficient in his minutes and made hustle plays that translated into Minnesota points or extended possessions.
“Dante really came off the bench and did a great job,” Adelman said. “We did a nice job on the boards all night. I thought maybe the fourth quarter they got a few they shouldn’t have, but for the most part it was a nice effort.”
Stuckey led Detroit with 21 points, while Greg Monroe and Kyle Singler each had 11 points and Tayshaun Prince had eight.
Leader of the Pack
Wolves forward Chase Budinger has been efficient in his 3-point shooting throughout the preseason, and he was at it again on Wednesday when the team needed it most. During the fourth quarter Budinger racked up 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting and hit 3-of-4 shots from 3-point range. He ended up tied with Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey with a game-high 21 points and finished 5-of-8 from 3-point land. Budinger, who played for Adelman and much of the Wolves’ coaching staff during his first two seasons in Houston, seems to feel comfortable finding open looks and has been able to connect on those opportunities.
“I feel I know where to be pretty much any time during the game,” Budinger said. “But it’s also a credit to my teammates, who find me as well, to know where I’m at and to continue to give me open shots as well.”
Highlight of the Night
For all the twists and turns in Wednesday’s game, the contest was relatively free of highlight-reel plays until the final 1:30 of the fourth quarter. That’s when rookie Alexey Shved connected with forward Chris Johnson on a short but sweet alley-oop lob that Johnson threw down with authority. The dunk extended the Wolves’ lead to 18 points at 91-73. It was one of three assists for Shved, and it was Johnson’s lone field goal attempt of the night.
The Numbers Game
- Bust out your calculators. In what turned out to be a wacky third quarter, the Wolves began the half with a 23-point lead. It quickly evaporated thanks to a 21-1 Pistons run that extended through the first six minutes of the quarter and turned a 52-29 Wolves advantage into a 53-50 contest. But from that point forward, the Wolves took over. In the final 5:50 of the third, Minnesota outscored Detroit 15-3, including a 13-1 run to end the frame. The Wolves carried a 68-53 lead into the fourth and never looked back.
- The Pistons dug themselves a hole in the first half thanks to a tough stretch from the field. Detroit entered the second quarter trailing 27-10 on 3-of-17 shooting. To put it in perspective, heading into the second Derrick Williams had 13 points on 3-of-8 shooting in the game.
- Luke Ridnour has been in and out of the lineup and on and off the practice court this preseason battling back troubles, but he started on Wednesday in Winnipeg and played 24:23. He shot just 2-of-7 from the field, but both of those makes came from 3-point range and looked a bit like the stroke he had a year ago when he was one of the team’s most efficient shooters from the field. Adelman said after the game the biggest thing with Ridnour is to make sure he’s able to stay healthy and doesn’t have setbacks.
- The Wolves held a distinct rebounding advantage in the game throughout, finishing with a 51-34 edge, including 12-4 on the offensive glass. The Pistons didn’t grab an offensive rebound until the third quarter when both Tayshaun Prince and Greg Monroe each collected one.
Quote of the Night
“Look, they won all the 50/50 balls, the hustle plays. When you shoot such a low percentage and not get offensive rebounds—gotta put a lot into this game. The thing was our intent was good, but when things weren’t going our way we just kind of fell apart a little bit. Dig yourself a huge deficit, you have to play at a very, very high level for a sustained period of time. We cut it to three; we didn’t have enough. We played one quarter of basketball.” —Pistons coach Lawrence Frank
In the team’s seventh and final preseason game of the season, Minnesota heads to Green Bay for a matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks at the Resch Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. and will be carried on WCCO 830-AM. Last year the Wolves and Bucks played both of their exhibitions against one another in the lockout-shortened preseason, with Minnesota winning both games. But Milwaukee responded when it mattered, beating the Wolves in Milwaukee during the teams’ lone meeting of the regular season.