'You can't win like that:' Turnovers plague Pistons in 119-100 loss to Timberwolves
Detroit — In some games, the score isn’t indicative of the game. One team isn’t as bad as the score and the other isn’t as good. The Pistons are better than they showed, and the Minnesota Timberwolves might be as good as they showed.
What matters in the end is the score, and the Timberwolves were on the right side of it, with a convincing 119-100 victory on Tuesday night at Little Caesars Arena. The Pistons lost their third straight game and moved closer to garnering one of the three worst records heading into next month’s draft lottery.
The Pistons (20-50) have two home games remaining — Friday against the Denver Nuggets and Sunday versus the Miami Heat — before they finish the regular season. The Timberwolves (22-47) have surged in recent weeks and with a loss, they would have been within a half-game of the Pistons for one of the worst records.
With eight regulars sitting because of rest or injury, the young players had to split up big minutes, and some new lineup combinations that put some of them in different positions. Josh Jackson (fourth season) and Jahlil Okafor (sixth) were the two most-veteran players active for the Pistons.
Saben Lee finished with a career-high 22 points, Saddiq Bey scored 21 points and Killian Hayes had 15 points, six rebounds and six assists, in a display of what the future could look like with heavy minutes and some other pieces around them.
The Timberwolves led from wire to wire and led by as many as 27 points. The Pistons had a season-high 28 turnovers, which led to 34 Timberwolves points, including a flurry of open-court steals that led to easy baskets, one of the big frustrations for coach Dwane Casey.
“Against a team that’s 30th in defense — if you turn it over 28 times against anybody in the league — you don’t give yourself a chance to compete to win,” Casey said. “They’re a very long and athletic team, but if we move it safely without turning it over, you can get a good look against any team in the league.”
The Pistons got within 44-38 midway through the second quarter on a 3-pointer by Bey. Minnesota answered with an 18-0 run, keyed by Anthony Edwards (22 points) and Ricky Rubio (19 points and five assists), who combined for 14 points during the spurt.
Hayes ended the run with two free throws with 11.9 seconds left, to cut the lead to 62-40 going into halftime. The Pistons picked up the momentum to start the third quarter, with a 12-0 spurt, with seven points from Bey and a 3-pointer from Jackson.
That trimmed the deficit to 62-52, but the Timberwolves had an answer, running off 11 straight points, with a basket by Karl-Anthony Towns (28 points, eight rebounds and a lay-in and 3-pointer by D’Angelo Russell (15 points and 10 assists).
Minnesota played all of their healthy veterans and they’ve been playing better, and that level of experience proved to be the difference.
“We’re working together, and chemistry is coming, and we continue to try to build on that ...,” Stewart said. “All four rookies are helping each other out when we’re on the floor.”
The lead tipped back over 20 with a 3-pointer by Edwards and the Timberwolves led, 86-65 after the third quarter. The Pistons made another mini-run behind Lee, who had six of their first 10 points in the period. He went 7-of-9 from the field and made all eight of his free throws for an efficient career night in scoring. He added four rebounds and five assists for a good all-around game.
Whenever the Pistons looked to be making a move toward a run, their turnovers seemed to be their bugaboo. Jackson had nine turnovers and Bey four, but the effect of the mistakes was evident.
“You can’t win like that. We talked about it and it’s too many turnovers and we have to correct that,” Bey said.