Harris, Pistons shoot past Timberwolves
DETROIT — Tobias Harris missed five of the first six shots he attempted on Wednesday night. In the past, Harris would have chosen to start driving to the basket more often.
Harris instead stuck with what Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy has been urging him to do: find open space on the perimeter and fire away.
When he re-entered the game, Harris soon found his shooting stroke. He tied his career high with 34 points, and the Pistons cruised to a 122-101 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Little Caesars Arena.
“I definitely would have had a different mindset of trying to drive and get some easy ones,” Harris said of his previous approach. “But when he took me out, I just evaluated some of the shots I took. A lot of them were rushed, a little bit off-balance. I was able to just settle down and take what the game gave me a little better and just lock into the shots I was going to get.”
Harris scored all of his points from the field, making 14 of 24 field-goal attempts, including a 6-for-9 performance from long range. Harris also had 34 points against the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 6, 2015.
Defenders tend to sag off Harris, a career 33 percent shooter on 3-point attempts. Van Gundy believes Harris can improve on that by simply shooting with more confidence.
“He’s not going to go 6-for-9 every night. There’s going to be a lot of 2-for-9s and 3-for-9s in there,” Van Gundy said. “So as a coach, you’ve got to decide do you want those shots or not? The fans’ (mentality) is, I miss my first three, then I’ve got to be smart and drive the ball. Well, they’re still not closing out on him, so you’re just going to drive it into traffic. Our thing is, it’s either a good shot or it’s not. Take good shots and live with the results.”
Avery Bradley supplied 20 points, and Andre Drummond contributed 15 points with 15 rebounds for Detroit (3-2). Stanley Johnson, who didn’t make a field goal in the Pistons’ first two home games, added 15 points. Henry Ellenson chipped in 14 off the bench, and Ish Smith had 13 assists.
Detroit outscored Minnesota 24-0 on fastbreak points.
Karl-Anthony Towns’ 23 points and 10 rebounds led the Timberwolves, who were blown out for the second consecutive night. Minnesota (2-3) lost by 23 points at home to the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.
“We have to be humble and continue to put the work in,” Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson said. “We’ve got to get used to winning. We’ve got a young team, and we’ve got to do a lot better, work a lot harder.”
Andrew Wiggins tossed in 21 points for Minnesota, and Jeff Teague added 18.
Minnesota played without All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler for the second consecutive game. Butler is recovering from an upper-respiratory infection.
“Things can change very quickly in this league, from going good to going very poorly,” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It could also change it back very quickly. You have to come with an edge every night. If you don’t, you’re going to get knocked on your butt.”
The Timberwolves scored the game’s first nine points, but that wound up being their high point. The Pistons emerged from the half with a commanding 63-44 lead.
Detroit started the second quarter with a 28-9 run. Bradley capped it off with a 3-pointer for a 51-35 Detroit advantage. Bradley’s 3-pointer in the final minute of the half gave the Pistons a 20-point cushion.
Minnesota put the Pistons in the bonus during the first three minutes of the third quarter, making it nearly impossible to produce a run.
The Pistons’ lead was 91-73 entering the fourth.
Harris tied his career best on a dunk with 2:03 remaining.
NOTES: Minnesota SG Jamal Crawford, who scored eight points, reached the 10,000-point mark in career bench scoring. Only Dell Curry (11,147) has scored more points off the bench over the past 35 years. ... Pistons C Boban Marjanovic was inactive for the third time this season. ... Detroit won the last four meetings. ... Pistons SG Reggie Bullock served the final game of his five-game suspension for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. ... Wednesday marked the two-year anniversary of Flip Saunders’ death. He coached both franchises. “A guy that I think was universally liked and respected throughout the league, and that’s not an easy thing in a real competitive business,” Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy said.