Timberwolves-Pistons Preview

With a sub-.500 record, the Detroit Pistons find themselves in

an atypical position coming out of the All-Star break. There’s

nothing unusual about the Minnesota Timberwolves having a losing

record at All-Star weekend, though.

Under .500 at the break for the first time in nearly a decade,

the struggling Pistons open the second half of the season Tuesday

night against the lowly Timberwolves at The Palace of Auburn

Hills.

Detroit (18-33) has made eight straight playoff appearances, but

that run appears to be in serious jeopardy with the Pistons

currently seven games back of Chicago for the eighth and final

playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

A punchless offense has been one of the biggest reasons for the

Pistons’ struggles. Detroit, which went into the All-Star break

with a losing record for the first time since 2000-01, has been

held to fewer than 100 points in 13 consecutive games and has

topped the century mark just once in its last 28.

Ben Gordon has been a major disappointment for the offense since

signing a free-agent contract in the offseason. He missed all eight

of his shots and finished with only three points in Wednesday’s

103-97 loss to Sacramento – Detroit’s final game before the break –

and is averaging 10.7 points on 35.6 percent shooting in his last

six.

Richard Hamilton is also in a scoring funk, averaging 13.0

points on 32.7 percent shooting in his last four contests.

“Those are two guys that are outstanding scorers, and we’ve got

to find them a way to get into our offensive flow,” Pistons coach

John Kuester said.

Detroit also has to figure out a way to protect its home court.

The Pistons, 4-11 at The Palace since Dec. 20, have lost five of

six at home, with the only win coming over hapless New Jersey.

As bad as the season has been for the Detroit, things are even

worse for the Timberwolves – although their struggles were more

expected after finishing with 58 losses a year ago.

Minnesota (13-40) is in last place in the West and has a losing

record at the break for the fifth straight season since being 27-27

at the 2005 All-Star game.

The Wolves appeared to be turning things around a week before

the break, but couldn’t keep it going. Minnesota’s season-best

four-game winning streak ended with a 119-97 loss to Philadelphia

on Tuesday, and it lost to Charlotte 93-92 a day later.

The offense led the way during the winning streak, averaging

112.3 points on 52.7 percent shooting, but the Wolves failed to

reach the 100-point mark or shoot 50 percent in the last two.

Kevin Love has been in a bit of an offensive lull, and the team

hopes he can come out of the break with more energy. The

second-year center is averaging 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in his

last three games after averaging 18.8 points and 11.3 boards in his

previous four.

“If he’s not playing hard – and he’s that type of player – then

things aren’t going to work out for him,” Timberwolves coach Kurt

Rambis said of Love.

Love averaged 9.5 points in two games against the Pistons last

season – each won by the road team – while Al Jefferson averaged

21.5 points in those contests.