NBA Basketball: Detroit Pistons at Minnesota Timberwolves
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After accumulating 411 wins in almost 10 years as coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Flip Saunders was accustomed to winning at the Target Center. His current team, the Detroit Pistons, wasn't.
When Saunders led the Pistons to a win last January in his first trip back to Minneapolis, he helped snap Detroit's eight-game losing streak in Minnesota. He hopes to beat his former team again as the Pistons visit the Timberwolves on Friday.
These teams met on Monday in Detroit, with the Timberwolves earning a 94-90 overtime victory. But the Pistons (21-16) are hoping a pair of players will give them the edge in Friday's matchup.
The Pistons welcomed back star point guard Chauncey Billups on Wednesday, the same day Detroit native Chris Webber made his Pistons debut after being bought out by Philadelphia. Billups, who had missed eight games with a calf injury, scored 26 points and added seven assists, but Utah defeated Detroit 100-99.
The loss was the Pistons' fourth in five games, a slump that includes defeats to Atlanta (13-23) and Charlotte (12-25).
"It seems right now our confidence is shaky," Saunders said. "When things have gone bad, we've settled for jumpers and we've lost some of our aggressiveness."
The addition of Webber's shooting touch and passing ability from the post was intended to fix those problems, but Webber scored just two points in 17 minutes off the bench in Wednesday's loss. Despite the unimpressive debut, Webber was not discouraged.
"I'm sure people expected more, but you can't judge this on one night," Webber said. "I'm telling you, this is going to be special."
While Detroit hopes the addition of Webber can spark the team, the Timberwolves (20-17) already appear to be rejuvenated. After getting off to a 13-15 start, Minnesota has gone 7-2 in January, including a 4-0 mark in overtime.
In spite of their recent surge, the Wolves suffered a 105-88 loss to the Hawks on Wednesday. Mark Blount led Minnesota with 16 points as the Hawks regularly double-teamed and triple-teamed Kevin Garnett, who shot just 6-of-15 from the floor.
"I was very disappointed in our approach and our sense of urgency," Minnesota coach Dwane Casey said. "We're not in a position in our program yet to come out and wait until we get behind to play."
The Wolves hope to have that renewed sense of urgency before Friday's matchup with the Pistons, as eight of their next 10 games are on the road.
Billups, who played for the Timberwolves for two seasons under Saunders, has averaged 20.1 points, 6.9 assists and 5.0 rebounds in eight games against his former team.
By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us
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