- Teams: Minnesota Timberwolves (9-11) at Detroit Pistons (10-11)
- Date: December 10, 2013
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: FS Detroit Plus
What to look for
Flirting with mediocrity is a dangerous proposition. It creates hope, expectations and gives the impression that better times are ahead. The Detroit Pistons know this all too well.
Detroit secured four consecutive victories and got themselves to an even .500 record. Reality then quickly removed its glove, slapped the Pistons in the face and challenged them to a duel.
The name of that duel: a vengeful Miami Heat. The South Beach team was seeking to avenge an earlier loss at the hands of the Pistons and was successful in the quest. LeBron James and company routed Mo Cheeks’ unit at the Palace of Auburn Hills and barely left traces of the elusive .500 record in the wreckage.
Still, if we look hard enough, the remnants are still there. The Pistons currently occupy the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference standings and furthermore, they might just be the fourth-best squad in the east.
Mind you, it’s difficult to come to this conclusion when inter-conference play takes place, which is exactly the case tonight. Detroit will host a Minnesota Timberwolves team that has a similar record, but plays against superior competition in the Western Conference.
Per ESPN.com’s Hollinger Rankings, the Wolves’ strength of schedule is superior to the Pistons’, a clear indication that Minnesota has played against stiffer opponents so far in the season.
In addition, their net scoring differential is better than Detroit’s, which again makes you believe they might finish 2013-14 with a better record than tonight’s hosts. Indeed, Rick Adelman’s troops are on the cusp of being above average and perhaps even good.
Their statistical profile reveals that they are within range of making the top-10 rankings in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The defense is a work in progress that fluctuates on some level, but their ability to score the ball is interesting to say the least.
Kevin Love makes that offense incredibly lethal given his unique set of skills. He is a true power forward and yet, he is a stretch-four player. He battles underneath the basket for boards and scores around the rim, but he also stretches the floor with his 3-point stroke.
This allows Adelman to use Love in ways that compromise defenses. Hand offs, pick-and-pops and spot-ups are ways that the coaching staff utilize the former UCLA Bruin. His shooting and passing make him a nightmare matchup given that opponents have to find the right blend of defensive attention to direct at him.
If the focus is too great, his teammates will get a multitude of looks because Adelman’s scheme creates a lot of misdirection where one assumes the play is set up for Love but actually is not.
The forward will occasionally serve as a decoy or as the setup man in certain sets specifically because all eyes are on him. This will stretch out the Pistons’ defense tonight because Greg Monroe will likely get the job of slowing down Love.
That will take him away from the rim and give Nikola Pekovic low-post opportunities against Andre Drummond. This is one of the many ways the Wolves score in the paint, an area where they are quite effective.
It’s worth noting that the Pistons lead the league in paint scoring and thus, this contest will probably be played right at the rim for both teams. The difference tonight might be long-range shooting, a stat where both teams are virtually identical so far this season.