After losing to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, the Timberwolves traveled to Detroit tonight on their second game of a back to back. The Wolves were without Center Darko Milicic, who is out due to personal issues. Milicic , who was selected with the second overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Pistons, has not lived up to his lofty expectations as he was selected before other superstars such as Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade. After several seasons languishing on the bench of the Pistons, Milicic had stops in Memphis, Orlando and then Minnesota – where he finally got a chance to play some extensive minutes, prompting GM David Kahn to sign him to a 4 year, $20 million dollar deal this past off-season.
The Pistons, coming off a tumultuous period last week where there were reports of a team protest, got off to a fast start with guard Rodney Stuckey leading the way. Stuckey had been averaging 26.5 points in the last two games and has been a fixture in the Pistons backcourt since the departure of veteran guard Chauncey Billups a few seasons ago. Billups’s old veteran teammate, Rip Hamilton, who had been in Coach John Kuester’s doghouse for the last month and a half, finally got some playing time in the first quarter tonight. Hamilton scored 5 points off the bench for the Pistons in the first quarter. Luke Ridnour paced the Wolves with 9 points on 4-4 shooting but the Pistons had an early lead 32-30 after one quarter of play.
In the second quarter, new acquisition Anthony Randolph had his best showing as a Wolves player. Randolph was very active in the quarter with 10 points off the bench. Johnny Flynn had ten assists and only one turnover. In his last game and a half, Flynn has a total of 19 assists and one turnover. Flynn led the Wolves to a 63-61 score at the half.
The second half began with Kevin Love extending his double-double streak to 48 consecutive games. Love and the Wolves were shooting 55.4% for the game and extended their lead to 80-71 with 4 minutes to go in the quarter. Pistons second year swingman Austin Daye kept the Pistons close with a pair of 3 pointers and was the Pistons leading scorer to date with 18 points in the game. Anthony Tolliver’s three point shot on a pick and pop play with Flynn helped the Wolves sustain their lead after 3 quarters, 89-85. Tolliver has been one of the most consistent bench players for the Wolves all season. I absolutely love his hustle and consistency. He has been a great find by GM David Khan.
The Wolves continued to pull away in the fourth led by Flynn and Randolph, who both had their best games of the year. Flynn had an outstanding game off the bench – directing the offense and playing mistake-free basketball. Flynn finished with 14 assists and an amazing 7 to 1 assist to turnover ratio in 29 minutes of play. Randolph finished with 19 points on 8-13 shooting from the field in 25 minutes, the most minutes he’s played in a game so far as a Timberwolf. He is starting to feel more comfortable with his role and it is good to see Coach Rambis reward him with extended playing time.
And of course, you can not forget Mr. Double-Double, Kevin Love. Love finished with 20 points and 20 rebounds, marking his 5th game this season with 20+ points/20+ rebounds in a game.
The Timberwolves came away with an impressive win on the road tonight – defeating the Pistons, 116-105. This young team is starting to gel as guys like Flynn, Randolph and Johnson are starting to learn their roles for the Wolves. After winning two out of their last three games, the Wolves look to continue their hot play at the Philadelphia Sixers on Friday.
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Written by Phil Aguila