Timberwolves hold off Pistons’ late rally
MINNEAPOLIS — As far as first impressions go, Thaddeus Young has so far been about as good as the Minnesota Timberwolves could have asked for.
The veteran forward was brought to Minnesota in August as part of a three-team trade after seven years with Philadelphia to aid in filling the void left in the starting lineup by the departure of All-Star forward Kevin Love. While the comparisons to Love may be unfair, Young has provided a much-needed scoring presence for the Timberwolves in his first two games with his new team.
Young, one night after scoring 26 points in a season-opening loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, hit a crucial 3-pointer with less than two minutes remaining to help the Timberwolves fend off a fourth-quarter rally by the Detroit Pistons for a 97-91 victory in their home opener Thursday night.
“I think it was a huge shot, definitely helped us win the game, but I think over the course of the years, fans have seen what I bring to the table,” Young said, trying to downplay his immediate impact. “Tonight I continued to have it going and just play solid.”
Detroit forward Caron Butler came off the bench to score a game-high 24 points. Reserve guard D.J. Augustin added 20 points, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Pistons from falling to 0-2 on the season.
After holding a one-point lead at the half, the Timberwolves opened the third quarter by outscoring the Pistons 23-7 in a seven-minute stretch. Detroit slowly chipped away at the lead, cutting the deficit to one point by the midpoint of the fourth quarter.
Butler fueled the Detroit rally with 16 points in the final quarter. With Minnesota on the verge of letting the game slip away late, guard Mo Williams hit an 18-foot jumper that was followed on the next possession by Young’s critical 3-pointer that kept the Timberwolves in front for good.
Detroit’s starters — forwards Josh Smith and Kyle Singler, guards Brandon Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and center Andre Drummond — combined for only 10 points in the second half. Caldwell-Pope and Drummond wound up with 11 points, and Smith contributed 10 points.
“Listen, we dug that hole,” said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy. “I mean we just absolutely melted down, hung our heads and basically the group on the floor was willing to let the game go.”
Detroit lost for the ninth consecutive time against Minnesota, with its last win against the Timberwolves coming in the final game of the 2009-10 regular season.
The Timberwolves’ third-quarter burst came after the teams traded baskets for much of a sluggish first half. Neither team held a lead of more than four points before halftime.
Flip Saunders, who is back as Minnesota’s head coach after his original tenure ended in 2005, improved to 10-0 in home openers with the Timberwolves.
After losing a tightly contested game to the Grizzlies on Wednesday, Saunders was pleased with the effort he got from his youthful team.
“We played hard, played aggressive, playing against a big guy like Drummond inside who’s a rebounding machine,” Saunders said. “As I told the guys, we built a lead by playing a certain way, playing the right way.”
Amid all of the hype surrounding him since arriving in Minnesota as part of the Love trade, forward Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, came through at a key moment in his second NBA game. He notched all eight of his points during the Timberwolves’ third-quarter scoring run.
“Seeing the ball go in the hoop one time, that got me going,” Wiggins said. “It was exciting, from the introductions to the end. It was exciting for me.”
Rookie Zach LaVine, Minnesota’s top draft pick, went scoreless in five minutes of action during his NBA debut.
NOTES: Detroit F/C Greg Monroe sat out the second and last game of his suspension, which was levied against him after he pleaded guilty in September to a charge of driving while visually impaired. Monroe is eligible to make his season debut Saturday in the Pistons’ home opener against the Brooklyn Nets. ... During the offseason, new Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy and Minnesota coach Flip Saunders joined the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Doc Rivers as the four current NBA coaches who also hold the title of president of basketball operations for their teams ... G Kevin Martin returned to the Timberwolves lineup after sitting out the season-opening loss at Memphis with an ankle injury ... Minnesota C Ronny Turiaf was ruled inactive for the second consecutive game due to a sore right hip.