The recipe to beat the Detroit Pistons is fairly simple: beat up Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe in the paint, and force Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings to beat you by jacking up long jump shots.
And that’s exactly what happened on Friday night at Target Center. From the start of the game, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic utterly dominated the Pistons’ big men, getting them into foul trouble early and completely throwing Detroit out of whack on both ends of the floor.
The first half was an offensive show, and the Wolves led by as many as 24 points in the first half before settling in with a 21-point lead at the break. It was offensive clinic, with the home team clicking on all cylinders. The Pistons were as incompetent as the Wolves were good, hitting on only 4 of their first 10 free throw attempts and turning the ball over with reckless abandon.
After watching the Knicks play one of their better offensive games in recent memory on Wednesday, the Pistons’ futility was certainly a welcome sight for Minnesota. Ricky Rubio again dominated the much-talked-about Rubio-Jennings match-up, and there wasn’t a whole lot else for the Wolves to contend with.
The offense is indeed a beautiful thing when it’s running smoothly. The ball moved crisply for the most part, and it was refreshing to see the Wolves get out of the gate and off to such a good start after struggling so much of late. They seemed to take this game more seriously than Wednesday’s debacle, and were actually able to keep the pedal to the metal, too.
And so the Wolves push themselves back above the taunting threshold of a .500 winning percentage. It’s a cruel charade that we’ve been sucked into, as Minnesota has not been able to climb more than three games above .500 all season long (remember, they started the season 3-0). But this is a stretch of games, as has been discussed at length, that the Wolves should push that record well north of where it has been in a long time.
There was an ugly blip early in the fourth quarter that caused this game to be far closer than it should have. The Wolves led by 30+ points before the bench allowed Detroit to whittle the deficit down to 17, forcing Adelman to reinsert his starters. The bench scored 2 points in the first 5+ minutes of the quarter, and the starters struggled to pull away too, allowing Detroit get within 11 points with just over 2:40 left on the clock, and again at the 1:30 mark.
So it wasn’t all rosy for the Wolves, but generally speaking, tonight was a good night for Minnesota. At this point, a win is a win is a win. There are simply no more moral victories, and no more point-differential wins, either. Thank goodness the Wolves had a 31-point lead, because they needed most of it.
Kevin Love was his usual self, finishing with 28 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 assists. Rubio bested Jennings, putting up 11 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals. Kevin Martin played another nice game, scoring 24 points on 9 of 16 shooting in a much-needed support role with Pekovic (17 points, 9 rebounds) still on a minutes limit in his return from injury.
And so the Wolves march on. Unfortunately, Dallas beat Portland tonight and Memphis won in Chicago, so the playoff picture didn’t change. Next up, a difficult match-up against the Toronto Raptors in Minneapolis at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. This is the toughest game of the home stand, and the Wolves need to come up with another win.