Love Prevails

T-wolves crush Pistons behind huge night from Kevin Love, hot shooting

TEAM COLORS

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

WHITE HOT – Kevin Love racked up huge numbers – 26 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists, all before taking the fourth quarter off – as Minnesota started hot and never really cooled down in rolling to a 121-94 win over the Pistons at The Palace. The Timberwolves enjoyed a huge free throw disparity, outscoring the Pistons 28-8 at the line, including a 17-1 edge in the first half and also hit 11 of 24 from from the 3-point line. Brandon Jennings led the Pistons with 20 points and seven assists. Josh Smith added 17 points and rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 16. Chauncey Billups returned for the Pistons after missing 14 games with left knee tendinitis, scoring seven points and dishing five assists in 17 minutes.

BLUE COLLAR – Andre Drummond’s streak of six straight games with six or more offensive rebounds ended when he managed four in 29 minutes and didn’t play in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand. But Drummond is the NBA leader in offensive rebounds by a wide margin and had averaged 7.2 over the last six. He finished with eight points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots.

RED FLAG – The Pistons hung around for most of the first half despite Minnesota shooting better than 60 percent for most of that time, but just as they cooled the Timberwolves off from the field they started turning the ball over – seven of their 11 first-half turnovers came in the last four minutes – and that’s when Minnesota turned a five-point lead into a 13-point cushion.


As it turns out, Tina Turner, Love’s got plenty to do with it.

Kevin Love, at least. Look at the start of his line from Tuesday’s 121-94 Minnesota humbling of the Pistons at The Palace and you’d think he had a lousy night: 6 baskets, 15 attempts. Look at the rest and you wonder where the Pistons went to treat their burns.

Love scored 26 points and he did it mainly in two ways: 3-point shooting and free throws, a testament to his unique ability to knock down shots from the perimeter and take it inside and bait the opposition into fouling. Love made 4 of 6 from the 3-point line, 10 of 10 from the foul line, for 22 of his points. When he’s locked in from distance, well …

“He’s more effective,” Josh Smith said. “He can use the pump fake, he can drive, he’s good around the rim at finishing. It’s tough to guard a person like that, especially when he’s knocking down 3-pointers. We’ve got to be able to take away something from his game and we weren’t able to do that tonight.”

And he did all of that in three quarters, 30 minutes of work, by which time Minnesota led 96-77.

The Pistons matched Minnesota’s firepower pretty evenly for 20 minutes, despite a whopping disparity in fouls and free throws, but a dysfunctional final four minutes of the first half at the offensive end enabled a 13-point Timberwolves halftime lead. The Pistons coughed up seven of their 11 first-half turnovers in that span.

“His ability to play on the block, his ability to step off the block and make threes, it’s a huge challenge for anybody guarding him,” Maurice Cheeks said of Love. “If we’re scoring in the paint and making him guard down there and take some of his energy away from shooting the ball on the perimeter, yeah, but we weren’t doing it. They continued to score and score and score, and then we had those turnovers. That was the difference.”

"We have to just let this one go and get ready for the next game."

- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on the loss
Full game quotes

Rick Adelman, who coached Portland against the Pistons in the 1990 NBA Finals, has long been recognized by his coaching peers as one of the game’s true offensive innovators. For Minnesota, its best defense is its offense. The Timberwolves, at least when they’re operating with the deadly precision they displayed at The Palace, take the opposition out of their offense by putting them on their heels defensively. The 27-point margin of defeat was Detroit’s largest against Minnesota in franchise history.

“We contributed to it,” said Chauncey Billups, back after missing 14 games with left knee tendinitis, of Minnesota’s season-high 121 points. “Our defense, we just gave up way too many layups early in the game. You want to take something away from them, either the 3-point line or the layup. And we gave ’em both, just coming down the lane. It was embarrassing, to be honest. But hopefully we can learn from that.”

It was an irksome game all around for the Pistons, from their consistent trouble getting back on defense, to the rash of turnovers, to getting hurt by yet another opponent from the 3-point arc to the 28-8 count in free throws made.

“It’s part of the game,” Cheeks said of the 24-16 difference in fouls called and the 33-16 edge Minnesota enjoyed in free throws attempted. “They were just more aggressive overall from the beginning. That’s it. They were more aggressive overall. Everything they did was just aggressive. We were scoring early, they were scoring and then we had all those turnovers and they made the difference.”

Whatever chance the Pistons might have had to get back in the game after halftime seemed to dissipate when the Timberwovles, 21 seconds into the second half, got another triple, from Ricky Rubio, to widen the lead to 16. When Billups hit a triple to pull the Pistons to within 11 with two minutes left in the third quarter, the flicker of hope was quickly doused by consecutive triples from Kevin Martin.

“He’s tricky,” rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said of the Minnesota veteran, who along with Nikola Pekovic added 18 to Love’s 26. “The way he pump fakes, he’s a tricky guard.”

Brandon Jennings and Smith led the charge for the Pistons when they were in basket-trading mode over the first 20 minutes, Smith scoring nine of his 17 points and Jennings 10 of his 20 in the first quarter. But even while the Pistons were scoring with relative ease, shooting 61 percent in the first quarter and 52 percent for the half, they understood they were playing by Minnesota’s rules.

“I think we played a little bit into their hands,” Smith said. “They play fast. They try to outscore teams and I think we didn’t do a good job of running our offense and just playing the way we know how to play, especially that four-game winning streak. We formed an identity and we got away from it a little bit tonight. … We’ll be OK. We’ve just got to bounce back tomorrow and try to take our frustration out on New Orleans and get back to what we were doing in order to get on that four-game winning streak.”