Love’s 21 leads Wolves over Pistons, 99-88
Wes Johnson flashed his usual smile in his return to the Carrier
Dome. That he didn’t awe the crowd with one of his signature dunks
and wasn’t wearing Syracuse Orange didn’t matter one bit.
Kevin Love had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Johnson added four
points and three assists as the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the
Detroit Pistons 99-88 on Friday night.
It was a whirlwind for Johnson, the Big East player of the year
last season and now an NBA rookie. Three games in four days and
renewing old friendships in a place he captivated with his
all-around play last season for the Orange took something of a
”I was tired, a lot of adrenaline going,” said Johnson, who
earned Big East player of the year honors last season. ”It was a
lot different from college, when the student section was crazy.
Still, seeing the ”S” on the floor brought back a lot of
Johnson was 2 of 6 from the floor, missing two attempts from
3-point range, and nabbed two steals and one rebound in just over
”I think Wes was a little nervous coming home,” Timberwolves
coach Kurt Rambis said. ”He wanted to do really well. A lot of the
times he forgot what we were supposed to do out there, but that’s
youth. He’s still learning. In shootaround, I saw him do things
athletically I had never seen him do, so I know he was
Austin Daye had 18 points, Charlie Villanueva added 16, Will
Bynum had 12 and Ben Gordon 11 for the Pistons (2-3 preseason).
Nikola Pekovic and Martell Webster each had 13 points for
The Timberwolves trailed for most of the first quarter, then
started the second with a 14-2 spurt as the Pistons went cold,
hitting just four of 15 shots in the period, and the Wolves never
Love’s 3-pointer from the left wing at 7:17 gave the Wolves a
34-31 lead. Webster’s steal and dunk put Minnesota up 44-37 and his
driving dunk less than a minute later kept them in front by seven.
Villanueva’s fast-break dunk in the final minute moved the Pistons
within 49-43 at halftime.
Detroit got as close as 53-52 on Villanueva’s follow midway in
the third, but Johnson scored from left wing and Love followed with
seven straight points, giving Minnesota a 65-60 lead with a
3-pointer over the outstretched arms of Villanueva at 4:22.
Daye’s jumper with 5 minutes left in the third was the last
basket for the Pistons in the period. Webster’s pullup jumper and a
basket by Kosta Koufos gave Minnesota a 71-61 lead after three and
they coasted from there.
It was a homecoming for three former Syracuse stars of coach Jim
Boeheim: Johnson, who declared a year early for the NBA draft;
point guard Jonny Flynn, who left after his sophomore season; and
veteran Jason Hart, who’s trying to earn a spot on the Timberwolves
as a free agent.
Flynn is recovering from hip surgery and did not play. He was
greeted with a standing ovation before the game and signed hundreds
of autographs. Flynn and Johnson were featured in a highlight reel
played before the game.
”It’s great. I really love the support that we have,” said
Flynn, who averaged 13.5 points and 4.4 assists as a rookie last
season. ”Just to come back and show how appreciative I am for all
the love they show. It’s like I just left. Just to be in the
atmosphere, at the Dome, and let them see my face. A lot of guys
don’t get to come back here and play while they’re on an NBA team.
This is a good stepping stone.”
Boeheim was honored before the game because he was an assistant
coach for the United States’ gold-medal winning team at the
basketball world championships.
Dave Bing, Boeheim’s college roommate who went on to a Hall of
Fame NBA career spent mostly with the Pistons and now serves as
mayor of Detroit, tossed the ceremonial jump ball. Both sat
together at courtside as Johnson and Flynn marveled at the
reception they received.
”Just being back in the Carrier Dome, Jonny and I looked at
each other like, ‘This is crazy.’ I got chills,” Johnson said.
”It was good seeing a lot of the faces I usually saw before games.
I didn’t have to break that ritual. It was good to see them come
Former Orange stars Pearl Washington, Lawrence Moten, Derrick
Coleman, John Wallace, Rafael Addison, Gerry McNamara, and Arinze
Onuaku also were in the crowd.