MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 31: Hamidou Diallo #6 of the Detroit Pistons drives to the basket during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on December 31, 2022 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Pistons ring out ’22 with a rousing rally to win at Minnesota

Three quick observations from Saturday night’s 116-104 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center

NEW YEAR’S FIREWORKS – The Minnesota Timberwolves were angry coming into the game, losers of five in a row, and smelled blood in the water when they saw the Pistons limping into town with a 9-29 record and off a Friday loss at Minnesota. Sure enough, the Timberwolves took an 18-point first-quarter lead. It was still 14 at halftime. But the Pistons used a 15-3 run late in the third quarter to tie the game at 86 and then an 11-0 run early in the fourth quarter to take an 11-point lead. Minnesota pulled within four and it looked like Dwane Casey’s bench – magnificent in a 65-point outing that saw all five players finish in double figures – was out of gas. But they sucked it up and made their New Year’s flight to Portland a happy journey in a win that left the home crowd booing the Timberwolves. Marvin Bagley III scored 18 to lead the bench, which also got 13 from Alec Burks, 12 from Hamidou Diallo and 11 apiece from Cory Joseph and Rodney McGruder. Guards D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards combined for 27 points in the game’s first 10 minutes, each missing only one shot among 13 total attempts, to get Minnesota off and running. The Pistons cut their deficit to seven in the second quarter before a flurry of turnovers allowed Minnesota to restore its lead to 14 at the break. Bojan Bogdanovic led the Pistons with 28 points, 17 to spark the third-quarter rally. But the night belonged to the bench, which turned the season around when Burks returned on Nov. 11. Since Nov. 18, the bench is averaging a league-best 48.1 points a game.

RING OUT THE OLD – Rookies Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren have been everything the Pistons could have hoped them to be – and then some. Ivey ranks third in rookie scoring (15.5), first in assists (4.1) and third in steals (1.0) and Duren leads all rookies in rebounds, offensive rebounds, double-doubles and dunks. But they’ve played more than a full college season already before the NBA’s mid-point of their rookie years. The 2022 finale on New Year’s eve in Minnesota was also their third game in four nights and if they didn’t believe in the rookie wall before Saturday, maybe they’re a little more open to its existence after a tough night in Minnesota. Duren, going against All-NBA big man Rudy Gobert, finished with three points and without a rebound in 14 minutes. He got hit with his third and fourth fouls less than a minute apart in the first 90 seconds of the third quarter and sat the rest of the way. Ivey, coming off a 21-point, six-assist night at Chicago, took a hard fall on his back in the first half and never got going. He finished one point to go with four assists and five turnovers.

TURNING THE PAGE – The Minnesota game was the season’s 39th, two shy of the midway point on the last day of 2022, and it was also the ninth back to back for the Pistons. They’ll have only four more the rest of the way after compiling a 2-7 record in the first nine. The schedule also turns a lot more favorable in other ways for the Pistons. So far, they’ve faced the toughest schedule in the NBA with their opponents sporting a cumulative winning percentage of .533. That sinks to .489 for the remainder of the season – third worst in the league. The Pistons are amid their second-longest road trip of the season, two games into a five-game trek, and they’ve already completed the season’s longest, a six-game trip in November. The Pistons have played more than half of their road schedule (21 of 41) and have 22 home games still to play, though one of those “home” games will be played next month in Paris against the Chicago Bulls. The Pistons don’t have any road trip of longer than three games for the rest of the season and only one of those spanning March and April.