MINNEAPOLIS — In recent seasons, the Minnesota Timberwolves would not have won games like they did on Friday against Dallas.
The Wolves fell behind big to the Mavericks before mounting a comeback to run away with a 111-87 win. Minnesota scored 68 points in the second half and erased a 13-point third-quarter deficit. The 3-pointer was big for the Timberwolves as they hit a season-high 13 shots from downtown.
Minnesota teams of old seemed to be on the opposite end of that in past years, building big leads before watching them disappear. Friday’s win was another sign that this is a different Timberwolves squad, one that now sits at 10-5 heading into Sunday’s matchup with Detroit.
“We knew we played poorly in the first half,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau told the Minneapolis Star Tribune after Friday’s comeback. “The second half, the biggest adjustment wasn’t schematic. It was intensity, us bringing the right intensity to the game. And once we did that, it changed.”
The Pistons, meanwhile, come into Sunday’s game in Minneapolis having just experienced the exact opposite of what the Timberwolves did. Detroit led by as many as 22 points in Friday’s game against the Indiana Pacers before falling 107-100.
That loss dropped the Pistons to the same 10-5 mark as Minnesota. Detroit now tries to bounce back from blowing a double-digit lead on Friday, which also marked the first time this season the Pistons have lost back-to-back games.
“That’s a game we should’ve won,” Pistons forward Tobias Harris told the Detroit Free Press. “It’s disappointing. In the locker room, everyone’s upset.”
Minnesota’s early success has been a result of balanced scoring, as was evident again Friday. All five starters scored at least 10 points — and all are averaging double-digit points per game this season — while veteran Jamal Crawford scored a dozen off the bench.
Harris has been Detroit’s top scorer through 15 games, averaging 19.3 points per contest. The Pistons have been stingier defensively than Minnesota, though, allowing 101.5 points per game to the Wolves’ 107.5 points per game.
These same two teams already played once this season Oct. 25. Minnesota dropped that road game by a 122-101 margin. Harris led the way with a career-high 34-point effort for Detroit, which dominated Minnesota in fast break points in that game (24-0).
That was one of two games that Wolves veteran guard Jimmy Butler missed due to an upper respiratory infection. Minnesota was 0-2 without Butler in the lineup but is 10-3 this year with Butler active.
“When we’re playing defense, we’re going to score enough points,” Butler told the Star Tribune after Friday’s win. “When we guard, get stops and stop taking ball out of the net every possession down, we’re a much better team.”
Minnesota’s 10-5 record is tied for the best 15-game start in franchise history. The last time the Wolves got off to a start that good was 2004-05. That year’s Minnesota club missed out on the playoffs, though, starting a 13-year postseason drought. The current Timberwolves are on the right track to ending that playoff skid.