By: Dan Slaubaugh
Happy Wednesday, Wolves fans. Tonight, the Wolves (2-2) are in Detroit to take on the Stan Van Gundy-led Pistons (2-2).
For those who watched Minnesota's embarrassing home loss to the Indiana Pacers last night, you probably can relate to my state of frustration at the current moment. It was a disheartening performance, one that drew boos out of a pissed off Target Center crowd dying to watch competitive basketball, from a team coming off a thrilling victory in Oklahoma City. Now, instead of heading to Detroit with a promising 3-1 start, fans will view this team as lucky to not be 0-4. Tonight will be a big test to see how the Wolves respond. Will they come out sluggish on the end of a back-to-back or will they come out fighting?
What: Wolves @ Pistons
When: 6:00 PM CT
Where: Detroit, Michigan. Little Caesars Arena. (AKA: Drew Mahowald's basement?)
Where to watch: Fox Sports North
Where to listen: 830 WCCO
What to watch for:
Will the defense show up? Last night, per @SuperStatsDave on Twitter, the Wolves allowed the Pacers to shoot 77 percent (30/39 FG) in the second half. Of that, their starters shot 87 percent (19/22 FG). While advanced and knowledgeable analysts often say "stats don't mean anything without context", this shouldn't need more explaining. Minnesota now sits 28th in defensive rating at 112.7, which will obviously have to improve if the Wolves want to compete in the Wild West. Evoking more effort is the first step in accomplishing that feat.
Towns-Drummond: KAT has been getting pushed around wherever the opposition wants through four games. Andre Drummond, one of the most physical enforcing bigs in the NBA, will be the ultimate test for KAT. Defensively, KAT has appeared lost. He's almost always a step late on rotations, is constantly out of position, and has been reluctant to run back in transition. Towns needs to start playing like he's fighting for his life on that end or the Wolves are in deep trouble.
Taking advantage: It's early, but much like last night, tonight SHOULD be a game the Wolves win. For a playoff hopeful team, Minnesota needs to take advantage of mediocre Eastern Conference teams because of the ensuing Western Conference grind down the road. That said, Detroit does have some nice pieces. Andre Drummond is a force to be reckoned with (when he wants to be) in the paint, Avery Bradley brings much-needed winning character and elite defense, and Tobias Harris is a solid starter who makes a positive impact on both ends of the court. Much like the Wolves, effort has been a problem with the Pistons. It will be interesting to see who plays with more tonight.
Will Jimmy Butler play? Head coach Tom Thibodeau was reluctant to say whether Butler, who was a late scratch Tuesday night due to an upper respiratory infection, would be available vs. the Pistons tonight. My gut says Butler doesn't play, but if there's someone who's going to travel and play less than 24 hours after being on IV's, it's Jimmy. Regardless, they have more than enough talent to compete without Butler, which didn't happen Tuesday night.
Minnesota: PG Jeff Teague, SG Andrew Wiggins, SF Jimmy Butler, PF Taj Gibson, C Karl-Anthony Towns
Detroit: PG Reggie Jackson, SG Avery Bradley, SF Stanley Johnson, PF Tobias Harris, C Andre Drummond
Minnesota: Justin Patton (foot)
The Pistons always play tough on their home floor, but I'm taking the Wolves. Detroit is just way to full of offense-first players who can't score.
Wolves win 108-101. Wiggins finishes with 25 points, 5 rebounds. Teague follows with 18 points, 7 assists.
FYI: If the Wolves lose this game, I'm going to gather all of the hottest takes on Twitter and slap them into a post here. Lets hope that doesn't happen so we can all sleep well tonight.