The Minnesota Timberwolves didn’t help their playoff chances by losing to a lackluster opponent in their return from a lengthy road trip earlier this week.
The Timberwolves will try to bounce back by dealing another blow to the Detroit Pistons’ postseason hopes Friday night.
Minnesota (30-30) had won six of seven and gone 4-1 on a five-game trip before a 118-106 loss Wednesday to a New York team that entered with seven straight defeats. The Timberwolves cut a 17-point deficit to two by the end of the third quarter but allowed the Knicks to pull away in the final period.
"We can’t give in and say that this is a killer," coach Rick Adelman said after the opener to a four-game homestand. "I know everybody’s going to say that you can’t lose to the Knicks, it’s a killer. … We just have to go out and beat Detroit. We lost this game. It’s not going to be perfect. I don’t worry about this being really damaging. I worry about the way we played."
Minnesota is in 10th place in the Western Conference but faces a significant deficit in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot. Detroit (24-37) is ninth in the East and three games back of eighth-place Atlanta but has made little progress lately.
The Pistons have dropped eight of 10 overall and 11 of 13 on the road, including seven in a row while allowing an average of 112.6 points.
Detroit held New York to 38.6 percent shooting in a 96-85 home win Monday but allowed Chicago to pull away for a 105-94 victory two days later. The Bulls outscored the Pistons 34-24 in the final quarter.
"They hit shots, especially in the fourth quarter, and they picked up their intensity on defense," coach John Loyer said. "We didn’t match that, and when you do that against a playoff team, you aren’t going to win many games."
Helping keep Loyer’s team within striking distance of a playoff berth is Atlanta’s four-game skid.
While hoping to get some help from Golden State as it hosts the Hawks on Friday night, the Pistons will try to end a seven-game skid to Minnesota. Detroit’s most recent win in the series was a 103-98 victory at the Target Center on April 14, 2010.
The Pistons have lost in their last three visits to Minneapolis after winning five in a row there and were blown out 121-94 on Dec. 10 at home in the only matchup this season.
Kevin Love, who had 26 points and 16 rebounds in that game, had a streak of 13 consecutive double-doubles snapped Wednesday. He had 19 points and eight rebounds, scoring one point in the second half.
Nikola Pekovic sat out most of the fourth quarter because Minnesota is restricting his minutes after a sore ankle caused him to miss a month. Pekovic had 17 points and six rebounds in his third game back, and he had 18 points against Detroit in December.