The Detroit Pistons arrived at Target Center on Friday evening seven games below .500 after losing eight of their past 10 games, but they still were only three games behind Atlanta in the chase for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.
“They’re in better position than we are,” Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said.
Two nights before that, New York came to town with a 21-40 record, and yet the Knicks were about as far from a playoff spot in the East as the 30-30 Wolves trail eighth-place Dallas in the West.
“I didn’t realize it,” Adelman said, “but the Knicks are in better position that we are, too.”
Such is life in the Western Conference, where the Wolves are .500 and watching a distant playoff spot slip away.
If the season had ended Friday, both Charlotte and Atlanta would make the playoffs in the East with winning records. Memphis, with a 34-26 record, wouldn’t in the West. Neither, of course, would the Wolves.
“I just think that’s the way it is,” Adelman said of the disparity between the two conferences. “Nothing much you can do about it.”
Then Adelman suggested the league needs to be “aggressive” in looking at way to “tweak” the playoff procedures to make them more equitable, like the NBA did recently by changing back from the 2-3-2 playoff format instituted long ago to ease travel when Boston and Los Angeles Lakers seemingly played in the Finals every year.
Before Friday’s game, Adelman called for veteran guard Kevin Martin to be more aggressive looking for his shot to start games after he went 3-for-10 Wednesday and the Wolves were overpowered by New York from the start.
So Martin shot six times in Friday’s first quarter, made four and scored 11 points in leading the Wolves to a 20-point lead before first quarter’s end. In doing so, he proved Adelman prophetic.
“He can’t hold the ball or massage it,” Adelman said. “He has to take his shots. When we do that, we’re just a much better team.
‘‘We didn’t do that against the Knicks and it was 9-0 before you turn around. If we sit back and wait to get in the game, we’re going to be in trouble. We’ve got to get at these guys, play to our strengths and don’t let them get into the game.”
He’s so Melo
Two nights after Carmelo Anthony came to Target Center and put up 33 points, another combo kind of forward — Detroit’s Josh Smith — came to town.
That’s where the similarities end, if you ask Wolves forward Corey Brewer.
“Different story,” Brewer said before Anthony scored 22 points in the first half alone Friday against Utah. “You can’t compare anybody in the NBA to Melo. Melo takes you inside and he doesn’t miss. When he shoots the mid-range, it’s automatically going in.”
• The Wolves entered the game leading the NBA in free throws made per game (21.7) and third in free throws attempted (27.9).
Opponents have attempted more free throws than the Wolves in just six games this season.
• Veteran center Ronny Turiaf missed his seventh consecutive game because of a bruised knee suffered Feb. 19 against Indiana. Adelman said he will re-evaluated next week.
• Turiaf and rookie Robbie Hummel again were the Wolves’ two inactive players for Friday’s games.