Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Pistons

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Wolves (3-2) vs. Detroit Pistons (3-3) – 7 PM MTS Centre (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Where to Watch: No TV
Where to Listen: No radio

The Timberwolves arrived in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Tuesday in preparation for the team’s exhibition matchup with the Detroit Pistons tonight at the MTS Centre.

When the two teams square off at 7 p.m., they’ll take part in the second game of the NBA’s inaugural Canada Series. The first took place on Oct. 19 when the Knicks and Raptors faced off in Montreal. The Wolves’ trip to Winnipeg includes participating in an NBA Cares court renovation and kids camp at the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre, coaches clinics and a postgame reception.

On the court, the Wolves will look to get back on track after a loss on Friday in Chicago.

When Minnesota faced the Bulls it was their first matchup since learning Kevin Love would miss 6-8 weeks with a broken right hand. They were also missing center Nikola Pekovic due to a hand injury, and with an adjusted front court the Wolves had trouble with the Bulls’ physicality in a 92-81 loss at the United Center. Including tonight’s Pistons game, the Wolves have two preseason matchups left before their regular season opener against Sacramento on Nov. 2.

The Pistons enter the contest with a 3-3 record having picked up wins against Toronto, Orlando and Charlotte. Their last game was an 85-80 win over the Bobcats at the Palace of Auburn Hills, when Rodney Stuckey led the way with 16 points and Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe each chipped in 15. Detroit won despite shooting 5-of-20 from 3-point range and 24-of-32 from the free-throw line.

Last time out

The last time the Wolves took on the Pistons, they snapped an April losing streak that spanned more than two and a half seasons. Minnesota defeated Detroit 91-80 in Auburn Hills on April 19, 2012 thanks to a big night from Nikola Pekovic. Pekovic scored 23 points and added nine boards, while four other players scored in double figures and guard JJ Barea compiled 12 assists. The win gave the Wolves a 2-0 record against the Pistons during the 2011-12 season—they also defeated Detroit 93-85 on Jan. 18.

Players to watch

Coach Rick Adelman continues to monitor who will fill Kevin Love’s spot at the power forward position, and tonight’s preseason matchup will be another opportunity to see who will start getting the majority of those minutes. Forward Dante Cunningham got the start in Chicago on Friday, but he and Derrick Williams split time. Adelman is looking for consistency at the position on both ends of the floor, particularly with Williams being more regularly involved offensively. On the glass, Love’s absence negates about 13 rebounds a night. Adelman is looking for more production on the boards from his players across the board, but in particular those who are gaining minutes at the power forward spot. Andrei Kirilenko and Lou Amundson are also options at the 4.

Key matchup: Andrei Kirilenko vs. Tayshaun Prince

The small forward position boasts an intriguing matchup because it matches up two respected veterans who have been successful at the NBA level for a decade each. Andrei Kirilenko is a do-it-all player, a guy who already has a reputation among his teammates as someone who holds intangibles on both ends of the floor. He’s athletic enough to score, rebound, block shots and create defensive mismatches. He was 5-of-6 with 12 points in 18 minutes of work in his last outing against Chicago on Friday, and on Tuesday against Maccabi Bazan Haifa he put up 13 points, shot 9-of-10 from the line, had seven boards, five assists and two steals.

Depending on how preseason minutes play out and if Adelman slides him to the 4 periodically, Kirilenko will share the floor with longtime Pistons small forward Tayshaun Prince. Prince is beginning his 11th NBA season, but he can still perform. He averaged 12.9 points per game a year ago while shooting 46 percent from the field, and he’s still a long, versatile player. These two first shared the floor against one another a decade ago, and if the preseason minutes shake out they’ll do so once again in Winnipeg.


Injury update

The Wolves continue to get healthy after battling injuries this preseason, and this week Adelman said guard Luke Ridnour looked good during his time on the practice court. On Tuesday, Adelman said both Ridnour and Pekovic are expected to play against the Pistons.


Tonight's Probable Starters
Position Timberwolves Pistons
PG Luke Ridnour Brandon Knight
SG Brandon Roy Rodney Stuckey
SF Andrei Kirilenko Tayshaun Prince
PF Dante Cunningham Jason Maxiel
C Nikola Pekovic Greg Monroe



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