DETROIT – The Timberwolves bade farewell to 2015 with Thursday’s 115-90 loss at Detroit — the 25-point difference the Pistons’ most lopsided margin of victory this season.
Oh well, there’s always next year.
“That’s a good one,” Wolves interim head coach Sam Mitchell said afterward, one of the few times he grinned and laughed all night.
Playing on New Year’s Eve for the first time since 2007 in Los Angeles, the Wolves ushered out the old year at the Palace of Auburn Hills and welcomed in the new after they returned home on a late-night flight. They did so after succumbing to an opponent that outweighed and outmuscled them inside and outscored them 42-15 on three-pointers.
Leading by nine points midway through the first quarter and trailing by as many as 27 in the fourth quarter, the Wolves remained winless at 0-4 on the second night of back-to-back games. The last three of those came when they traveled east for the second night’s game and lost an hour’s time in the process. The margin of defeat has grown larger each time, from five at New York and 14 at Boston just before Christmas to 25 on New Year’s Eve.
This latest loss came 23 hours after they had beaten injury-depleted Utah 94-80 at Target Center.
Mitchell mentioned both fatigue — Thursday’s game was the Wolves’ third in four nights, their 10th in the past 17 days — and a beefy Pistons team that beat them with star center Andre Drummond’s 23-point, 18-rebound game and backup big man Aron Baynes’ persistent banging.
“People think we have size, but we really are a small basketball team,” Mitchell said. “Somebody asked me the other day about how big we were. You think we’re still big? Now, you saw a big team tonight. We knew we were giving up some size.”
They gave up some outside shooting as well, fading into the good night after halftime when the Pistons made nine of their 14 three-point shots, including six in the fourth quarter alone. The game changed with the Pistons’ 30-15 second quarter and then it got out of hand after Drummond and Baynes punished them inside and versatile forwards Anthony Tolliver and Ersan Ilyasova beat them outside with their shooting.
“It’s all about the NBA,” Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio said, “being ready every night, but tonight we couldn’t bring it.”
The Pistons ended a three-game losing streak and improved to 18-15 while the Wolves fell to 12-21. “I feel like we got back to who we were,” Detroit point guard Reggie Jackson said.
The Wolves again played without starter Kevin Garnett, who hasn’t played the second night of back-to-back games the past three times they’ve occurred. They adjusted Thursday by starting centers Gorgui Dieng and Karl-Anthony Towns beside each other and calling upon Nemanja Bjelica and Damjan Rudez off the bench.
“It’s a little different because you’re talking about a Hall of Famer who isn’t on the court,” Towns said, “but that shouldn’t change who we are, our philosophy and how we play. We should be an energetic team that talks a lot and plays defense to a high standard. … We didn’t do a good job today. That’s why we lost.”