AUBURN HILLS, MICH. - Something both funny and sobering struck Timberwolves third-year guard Wayne Ellington in the moments after his team beat the Detroit Pistons 91-80 on Thursday night.
"The last time I won a game in April, I was in Detroit, too," he said.
This time, there will be no celebration that goes on for a month like the last time Ellington won a game in Detroit in April, when he walked out of Ford Field on an early spring night an NCAA champion after North Carolina beat Michigan State in the 2009 Final Four title game.
This time -- three years later, mind you -- there was more relief than utter jubilation after the Wolves won a game in the season's final month for the first time since winning at Golden State on April 8, 2009, two days after Ellington was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player and the Tar Heels partied all the way home to Chapel Hill.
"We were probably still celebrating," Ellington said of the night the Wolves last won in April.
Thursday, the Wolves ended an 11-game losing streak, winning for the first time since March 28 at Charlotte by jumping all over a Pistons team playing its third game in as many nights and then holding on tight in the game's final two minutes.
A lead that got as large as 23 points in the third quarter twice dwindled to just five points in the game's final 40 seconds, but the Wolves persevered, ending an 0-for-April streak and an NBA record for consecutive losses in a single month at 27 defeats.
The Wolves lost their final three games in 2009, their final seven games in 2010 and finished last season on a 15-game losing streak, with seven of those coming in April.
And 10 games of their 11-game losing streak that ended Thursday came in April this year, as well.
"I never even realized that until everybody started bringing it up," first-year Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "I can see this year what happened to us. I don't know what happened last year or the year before that. It's that time of year. What, they lose 15 in a row last year and 11 here? That doesn't bode well for winning in April."
Thursday, it all ended when the Wolves led by 18 points at halftime and by 17 with just 4:44 still left in the game until Pistons reserve guard Will Bynum scored all of his 17 points in the fourth quarter.
Bynum scored 10 of those points during an 18-6 run that pulled Detroit within 85-80 with 39.9 seconds left. But the Wolves made six consecutive free throws down the stretch to win for the 26th time in 64 games this season.
"It means a lot," Adelman said of a simple, single victory. "I told them we finally won a game in April, now let's see if we can win three, see if we can turn this thing at the end of the year so it can end on a positive note."
The Wolves will finish this 66-game, lockout-abbreviated season with home games Sunday against Golden State and Thursday against Denver.
By beating the Pistons, they guaranteed themselves that they won't go into next season with a 15-game losing streak like last year or a seven-gamer like the year before.
They did so with a 13-point, 12-assist, six-rebound performance from J.J. Barea -- the Wolves' only accomplished, healthy point guard still standing after injuries to Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour -- and with 23 points and nine rebounds from starting center Nikola Pekovic.
They also got a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double from Anthony Randolph before he sat out the entire fourth quarter because of a hamstring injury.
"I don't know, we just have to make it hard on ourselves no matter what," Adelman said about building such a big lead and then holding on at the end.
"Give [the Pistons] credit. Bynum was terrific and they didn't stop playing. It was their third night in a row and they just kept playing."