A three-time All-Star and marquee offseason acquisition, Jimmy Butler was a late scratching on Tuesday night against Indiana due to an upper-respiratory illness, and the Timberwolves’ defense looked sick without him. As a result, The Timberwolves were embarrassed 130-107 by the Indiana Pacers at home.
The Timberwolves (2-2) allowed the Pacers to shoot 66.7 percent (56 for 84), matching the highest percentage allowed in franchise history set in 1994 and equaled in 2014. Minnesota’s offense kept pace for almost three quarters before Indiana went on a 24-7 spurt over a 7:39 span bridging the final two periods.
Detroit (2-2) has alternated wins and losses to start the season, and their lack of offense contributed to a 98-87 defeat to Philadelphia on Monday night. The Pistons shot a season-worst 38.8 percent and were 6 of 30 from 3-point range.
Andre Drummond had 14 points, 14 rebounds and four steals for the Pistons, who failed to score in the final 3:14. Leading scorer Tobias Harris, who averages a team-high 21.0 points, was held to 11 on 5-of-16 shooting.
Three Keys to the Game
Defensive communication for the Wolves - Even with Butler's arrival, everyone knew Minnesota's defense was a work in progress, even with it being coach Tom Thibodeau's second season. But to allow an opponent to make two of every three shots is unforgivable regardless of personnel. Considering how the Pistons are coming off their worst shooting performance of the season and have yet to shoot 50 percent in any of their first four games, look for the Timberwolves to come out aggressive on that end of the court.
Get Harris going - Conversely, the Pistons would be wise to funnel their offense through Harris early considering he has the quickness to create matchup problems. It may play into Detroit's hands if Butler, should he play, winds up guarding him because the All-Star often takes on the stopper assignment defensively so other players get involved.
Wiggins' bounce-back - After averaging 24.7 points in the first three games and hitting the game-winning basket at Oklahoma City, Andrew Wiggins scored just seven points on 3-of-9 shooting versus the Pacers. It's possible Wiggins felt overloaded with responsibility without Butler running alongside him, but it was just the third time in 85 games dating back to the start of last season he failed to reach double figures. Point guard Jeff Teague must get him involved early so the funk doesn't carry over.
Matchup to Watch
Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Andre Drummond - A pair of double-double machines, Towns was denied one for the first time in four games Tuesday night in part because Indiana shot 66.7 percent and he grabbed just five rebounds. He had averaged 21.7 points and 11.7 rebounds in Minnesota's first three games and scored 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting in the defeat. Drummond has recorded double-doubles in each of his last two games and shot 14 for 20 in those contests. The other surprising part of Drummond's game so far is his free throw shooting. A career 38.4 percent shooter from the foul line, Drummond has made 10 of 12 (83.3 percent) through the first four games.
Minnesota Timberwolves Projected Starting Lineup
PG - Jeff Teague | SG - Jimmy Butler | C - Karl-Anthony Towns | SF - Andrew Wiggins | PF - Taj Gibson
Detroit Pistons Projected Starting Lineup
PG - Reggie Jackson | SG - Avery Bradley | C - Andre Drummond | SF - Stanley Johnson | PF - Tobias Harris
Drummond has recorded six straight double-doubles against Minnesota, averaging 17.7 points and 15.8 rebounds while shooting 65.8 percent from the field.
If healthy enough to play, Butler is also a good pick for fantasy purposes as he's averaged 25.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.6 steals in his last 10 games versus Detroit, highlighted by a 28-17-12 triple-double in 2016.
There's a few conflicting trends in this matchup that make picking this game difficult. While the Timberwolves are 5-2 against the spread in their last seven visits to Detroit, they are 0-4 against the spread in their last four games in the series. The over/under of 203 points is also tricky because while the over has hit in the last four games between the teams in Detroit, the under has prevailed in both of the Pistons' home games this season and is also 14-3 in their last 17 at home. Butler's status makes picking a winner too dicey, but the under is more viable given both teams may grind down the game.
Both teams have a point to prove in this game. It may be good the Timberwolves are playing on back-to-back nights so they can leave Tuesday night's loss behind and just get back on the court. Having Butler will go a long way to at least some cohesion defensively, but his minutes may be limited based on his illness should he be able to go.
Detroit have yet to play two good games in a row, and coach Stan Van Gundy's insistence on pressuring the ball more defensively has resulted in his guards getting into early foul trouble, disrupting the flow of his team. Whichever team solves its issues first likely will wind up being the winner. Look for the Pistons to squeeze out a 98-94 win.
This game will be televised locally on Fox Sports Detroit and Fox Sports Net North. Tip-off is at 7pm ET.
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