Detroit Pistons look good, then collapse vs. Minnesota Timberwolves in opener, 111-101

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
| Detroit Free Press

There are some bright sides that can be taken away from the Detroit Pistons‘ regular season opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

A horrible, no-good fourth quarter upended any good feelings the Pistons would’ve taken away from Wednesday’s game, however. Despite leading for most of the night, the Pistons fell to the T’wolves on the road, 111-101

The Pistons got strong performances from Josh Jackson (19 points), Mason Plumlee and Derrick Rose, but were outscored 31-16 in a fourth quarter that saw everything fall apart. 

Here’s what stood out:

THE VISION: Pistons GM Troy Weaver building team to honor city’s robust basketball heritage

A (mostly) improved offensive performance

After finishing with the league’s second-worst offensive rating during preseason — a putrid 91 points per 100 possessions — the Pistons had nowhere to go but up. 

And up they went. Detroit looked like a completely different team for long stretches of the night. They came out of the gate on fire, scoring the first eight points of the game and finishing the first quarter with a 58.3% overall shooting clip. 

Detroit built a 14-point lead midway through the second quarter. The Pistons slumped from behind the arc in the second quarter, though, going 1-for-12 after making four of their six attempts in the first. It helped the T’wolves cut the deficit to one, 57-56, entering halftime. 

The Pistons recovered in the third, using a 10-0 run to build their lead back to double-digits, 73-61. However, they fell apart in the fourth quarter after three promising ones. 

After struggling with turnovers during preseason, the Pistons committed just `1 on Wednesday while tallying 19 assists. They only had three turnovers during the first half, but got sloppier with the ball in the second half. They coughed it up five times in the third, and four times in the fourth. Still, they moved the ball significantly better compared to their four preseason games, and it’s part of the reason why they led until the 3:38 mark of the fourth quarter. 

• Box score

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Mason Plumlee’s passing

His play was relatively quiet during preseason, but Plumlee might’ve been Detroit’s best player on Wednesday. He finished the night with 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and showed that he’s more than capable of creating offense for his teammates. 

He helped fuel the Pistons’ 12-0 run in the third that allowed them to regain control of the game. He found Delon Wright and Killian Hayes on cuts to the rim, and brought the ball up in transition by himself before kicking out to Jerami Grant, who hit the wide-open 3-pointer. 

Plumlee has long been one of the NBA’s best-passing big men, and he should have ample opportunity to showcase that aspect of his game in a starting role this season. 

Casey tightens his rotation

After going at least 13 deep in his rotation in all four preseason games, Casey said he would tighten it once the season started. 

Casey did just that, sticking with a 10-man rotation against the T’wolves. He rolled out his same starting lineup — Hayes, Wright, Grant, Blake Griffin and Plumlee — and went with a mix of youth and experience off of the bench. 

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Continuing a trend from preseason, Josh Jackson was Detroit’s best bench player, finishing with 19 points and six rebounds in 29 minutes. He shot well going 3 of 7 from behind the arc, and his energy in transition created multiple scoring opportunities. 

Hayes was the only rookie to see the floor. Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart could receive playing time this season, but at least for game one, they’re behind more-experienced players in the roster. The Pistons led for most of the night, but the game was never quite out of reach early.

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