Saddiq Bey’s boom helps Detroit Pistons beat Timberwolves, 135-118

Detroit Free Press

Down several key rotation players and reeling from a 31-point blowout to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Detroit Pistons flew home in the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday in search of life. They found it against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Pistons cruised to one of their biggest wins of the season, 135-118, behind a season-best 31 points from Saddiq Bey. It was a needed outburst from Bey, who had shot just 34.7% from the floor during his previous seven games. On Wednesday, he hit nine of 15 shots, including five of eight 3-pointers, against Minnesota. Detroit won despite missing Cade Cunningham, Marvin Bagley III, Isaiah Stewart (left shoulder soreness) and Jalen Duren (right ankle soreness). It was Stewart’s second straight missed game, and Duren’s third straight.

The Pistons were helped by the return of Bojan Bogdanovic (27 points), who missed Tuesday’s loss with left calf soreness, and Isaiah Livers, who missed 20 games with a shoulder injury and hadn’t played since Dec. 1. Killian Hayes (18 points, nine assists) and Jaden Ivey (18 points, eight assists) had one of their best games of the season as a duo. They shot a combined 14-for-25 and combined for just five turnovers. Hamidou Diallo (18 points, 7-for-8 shooting) also had a strong night off of the bench.

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Detroit shot 60%, including and sank 17 of 32 3-pointers. Anthony Edwards led Minnesota with 20 games and six assists, but left the game during the first half with a hip injury. He returned during the third quarter. D’Angelo Russell scored 19 points, and Rudy Gobert added a 16-point, 14-rebound double-double.

Noel turns back the clock during strong 3rd quarter

Nerlens Noel has been ever-present but rarely seen this season. The coaching staff has used him as a “9-1-1” option, in head coach Dwane Casey’s words, and his minutes have either come in garbage time or when injuries have forced him into the lineup.

Detroit’s last two games have been the latter, with Stewart and Duren in street clothes on the bench and Bagley still weeks away from returning from surgery on two fingers. Wednesday was Noel’s second consecutive start and his best performance of the year by a wide margin.

The third quarter was a masterclass for Noel, who came to Detroit with a reputation as one of the NBA’s better defensive bigs. He recorded four blocks and three steals in 10 minutes, and was a catalyst behind a strong quarter for the Pistons that allowed them to take control of the game. Detroit won the third by a 36-23 margin as the T’wolves shot just 8-for-21 and turned the ball over four times.

Noel’s forced turnovers created easy transition opportunities for Detroit. His first block of the third led to a fastbreak layup for Ivey that gave Detroit the lead for good, 71-69. Midway through the quarter, Noel rejected Taurean Prince at the rim to lead to a Bey transition dunk and and a free throw. Noel hounded Gobert under the rim, and Minnesota’s offense eventually ground to a halt after a hot start.

Pistons take control after poor start

The first two minutes of the game echoed the Pistons’ low-effort loss to the Sixers. The T’wolves opened Wednesday’s game with a 10-0 run, making their first four shots as Detroit missed its first five. The uninspiring start forced Casey to call an early timeout with 9:26 on the clock.

The Pistons looked like a different team after the timeout, and finished the first quarter shooting 10-for-19 despite starting the game 0-for-5. A 3-pointer by Prince midway through the quarter extended Minnesota’s lead back to 10, but Detroit closed the quarter with a 22-15 run to cut the deficit to three.

The T’wolves took a 10-point lead once again midway through the second quarter, but a layup from Hayes with less than three seconds until halftime capped a 21-10 run that gave Detroit its first lead of the night.

That momentum carried the Pistons through the rest of the game, as they dominated the third quarter and led by blowout margins during the entire fourth.

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