Regular Season Series (Game 2 of 2)

Series starts 11/17

Game 1: Wednesday, November 17th
Game 2: Monday, January 24th

Pistons 83

(23-18, 10-11 away)

Timberwolves 86

(22-19, 11-8 home)

    Coverage: WDWB

    7:00 PM ET, January 24, 2005

    Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

    1 2 3 4 T
    DET 19 20 24 2083
    MIN 22 26 18 2086

    Top Performers

    Det: C. Billups 22 Pts, 9 Reb, 6 Ast

    Min: K. Garnett 22 Pts, 9 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

    T-Wolves win third straight; Pistons drop fourth in a row

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Timberwolves have found some clutch players -- and they're sitting on the bench.

    Kevin Garnett had 22 points and nine rebounds, and the backups came up big again for Minnesota in an 86-83 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.

    Reserves Wally Szczerbiak (15 points), Eddie Griffin (14 points, 10 rebounds, seven blocks), Fred Hoiberg (nine points) and Troy Hudson (seven points, seven assists) helped the Timberwolves win their third straight. This is a second unit in name only, though -- that quartet averaged 27 minutes apiece.

    "We're playing the guys that deserve to play," said Szczerbiak, who recently volunteered to come off the bench to let stopper Trenton Hassell start and give the team an immediate defensive boost. "I think that's why we're starting to win."

    Chauncey Billups had 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists against one of the many teams he used to play for, but Detroit dropped its fourth straight game despite a 51-36 rebounding edge and a second-half rally fueled by that trademark tough defense.

    On the game's final possession, the Pistons missed three 3-pointers that would have sent it to overtime. None of them were great looks, though Rasheed Wallace's attempt bounced off the rim at the buzzer.

    Detroit was missing two starting perimeter players: Leading scorer Richard Hamilton didn't suit up because of a bruised right thigh, and Tayshaun Prince sprained his left ankle early in the first quarter and didn't return.

    "The effort was there," Billups said. "We just fell a little short."

    Pistons coach Larry Brown, who bemoaned his club's "rock-bottom" performance in Saturday's loss to Chicago, criticized the officiating in brief comments to reporters. He was upset that goaltending wasn't called on Griffin's block of Carlos Arroyo's layup with 25 seconds left, and he claimed Minnesota should have been whistled several times for over-the-back fouls.

    "It's not fair. It's a joke. This has been happening too much," Brown said.

    The Pistons, who trailed by 14 points in the first half after Griffin's third 3-pointer, chipped away and went ahead with 8:04 left on a shot by Arroyo that made it 72-71.

    Griffin sank two free throws to put the Wolves ahead 82-79 with 1:38 remaining, and Ronald Dupree answered with a jumper. Griffin grabbed a loose ball following a Minnesota miss on the other end and later came up with the big block on Arroyo with the Wolves clinging to an 82-81 lead.

    "I feel great with Eddie behind me," Hudson said, smiling. "When I get beat off the dribble, I'm like, so what? Eddie's going to block it."

    Hoiberg made two foul shots to put the Wolves up 86-83 with 12.2 seconds remaining, setting up Detroit's last chance. The defending champs, who went 28-13 in the first half last season, fell to 23-18.

    "I'm not looking for positives out of a loss," said Ben Wallace, who had 11 points and 13 rebounds.

    The Timberwolves (22-19) arrived at the regular season's midpoint in a little better shape than they were four days ago -- though still way off the 29-12 pace they set en route to the Western Conference's best record last year.

    Minnesota has used nine different lineups this season, but it is 3-1 with the latest version -- Garnett, Hassell, Latrell Sprewell, Ervin Johnson and Anthony Carter. That's left Szczerbiak, Hudson, Hoiberg and Griffin to come off the bench, and they've been providing a healthy offensive spark. Szczerbiak, leading the way, has 67 points in his last three games.

    "I don't determine who plays," coach Flip Saunders said. "They do, by how they play and how the guys play on the floor together."

    Game notes

    Prince and Hamilton are day-to-day. Detroit's Darko Milicic was not with the team because of the flu. ... Minnesota's Sam Cassell missed his 10th straight game with a right hamstring strain. Cassell will practice Tuesday and be evaluated following Wednesday morning's shootaround to see if he'll be ready to play that night against Atlanta. ... The Pistons have lost eight straight at Target Center and 12 of their last 15 against the Timberwolves. ... Griffin's seven blocked shots tied a career high and established a season best for Minnesota. He has 28 blocks over his last seven games.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press