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Timberwolves topple Pistons for 10th straight time

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — The Minnesota Timberwolves don't dominate many teams but somehow they do the Pistons.

It's one of those sports oddities that are inexplicable.

Sunday, as usual, the Timberwolves had little difficulty defeating the Pistons, 112-101, for their 10th consecutive victory over Detroit.

The last time the Pistons defeated the Timberwolves? A 103-98 victory on the final night of the 2009-10 regular season (April 14, 2010).

During those five seasons the Timberwolves have been largely brutal, much as they've been this season (11-40) although Sunday's victory was their season-high third in a row.

D.J. Augustin scored 20 and Andre Drummond added 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Pistons (20-32). Greg Monroe, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Anthony Tolliver all had 15 points.

But a brutal start doomed the Pistons, who simply weren't good enough defensively.

"We didn't come ready to play at all," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We didn't have any commitment to the defensive end of the floor."

Nikola Pekovic scored a season-high 29 and Kevin Martin had 24 points to lead the Timberwolves.

After going 9-for-16 from 3-point range in the first half, the Pistons missed 14 of 15 from beyond the arc in the second half — which didn't help any comeback hopes.

But it was on the defensive end where the Pistons struggled particularly, allowing the Timberwolves to shoot 51.3 percent from the floor (39-of-76), but almost 56 percent in the first half as Minnesota pulled away.

"We just didn't come out with any energy," Caldwell-Pope said. "They pushed the ball, we didn't get back and every basket they got was easy.

"They weren't feeling us tonight."

The Pistons trailed 81-73 after three quarters and cut their deficit to four, 81-77, on Drummond's basket with just over 10 minutes left.

"That stretch we actually got stops, rebounded the ball, and pushed it," Caldwell-Pope said. "That really helped us out to get it back (within four points) and we let it get away from us."

The Timberwolves went on a quick 10-4 run to extend their lead to 91-81 and regained control.

The Timberwolves led 61-51 at halftime after shooting 55.8 percent from the floor (24-for-43), nailing 3 of 5 3-pointers (60 percent) and converting 10 of 12 free throws (83.3 percent).

Minnesota came out scorching from the tip.

It took the Pistons until the Timberwolves' ninth possession to finally get a defensive stop and by then, Minnesota had opened a 19-8 lead.

It was a sign of the rest of the evening.

"We were scoring so easy our guys thought we could just play," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said. "We were executing the heck out of our offense. We pretty much got the ball to who we wanted to get it to in their spots and they were able to go to work."

The Timberwolves made 14 of 21 from the floor in the first quarter and took a 32-24 lead.

The Pistons cut Minnesota's lead to six in the second quarter, 51-45, on Tolliver's 3-pointer with just under three mintues left in the first half.

"We just need to pick it up on the defensive end," forward Kyle Singler said. "We've shown we can play good defense. It's a state of mind we have to have."

The Pistons had no answer for Pekovic down low, who used his strength and size effectively against Drummond.

"He's big and strong," said Van Gundy. "He's a good player and we didn't compete very hard against him."