Detroit’s trade for Allen Iverson in November hasn’t worked out as well as the Pistons envisioned. Adding to the increasing tension during the team’s slump is Iverson becoming more vocal about his role.
Iverson and the Pistons look to avoid their third straight loss Wednesday when they visit the surprising Minnesota Timberwolves.
Detroit (24-19) had hoped the addition of Iverson to the lineup would help it get back to the NBA finals for the first time since 2004-05. Instead, the Pistons are 20-19 since sending Chauncey Billups to Denver for Iverson, and they’ve played especially poorly recently, losing eight of 11.
Detroit shot a season-high 56.4 percent from the field Sunday against Houston, but gave up 39 points in the first quarter and trailed by 13 midway through the fourth in losing 108-105.
The Pistons had two opportunities to tie the game, but missed a pair of 3-pointers in the final seconds. First-year coach Michael Curry drew criticism afterward for keeping Iverson on the bench with the game on the line. Iverson played 34 minutes, including only one in the fourth quarter.
“That was just different,” said Iverson, who finished with 17 points and eight assists. “In that situation I thought I was going to be there. Maybe he was thinking we had a chance another way. I trust the decisions he makes.”
Iverson is averaging a career-low 17.6 points since joining the Pistons, who seem to be struggling to find a role for him. He’s also playing a career-low 37.8 minutes per game.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t (frustrated),” Iverson said. “I think I can do more to help us win basketball games.”
Curry defended his decision to keep Iverson on the bench Sunday in favor of Arron Afflalo, saying that he was going with the group that had mounted the fourth-quarter comeback.
“It’s part of the job,” Curry said. “When you lose it’s the coach’s fault. When you win, the players get the praise.”
Curry and the Pistons could be facing a lot more questions given their upcoming schedule. Minnesota (16-27) has been surging since Jan. 1 and Detroit plays home games against Boston and Cleveland beginning Friday.
While the Pistons deal with questions about the chemistry of their team, the Timberwolves have been enjoying January. Minnesota has been on a tear this month, going 10-2, including three straight wins.
The Timberwolves are coming off a 90-83 victory at Milwaukee on Monday. Al Jefferson had 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Ryan Gomes added 22 points as Minnesota held on after the Bucks went on a late 13-2 run.
“Earlier in the season, teams made runs like that on us and we shut it down. You can just see the growth in our team,” Mike Miller said.
The Timberwolves also have a trying schedule. After facing Detroit they play the Los Angeles Lakers at home Friday before visiting the Celtics on Sunday.
Minnesota beat the Pistons 106-80 on Nov. 23 and will be trying to sweep the season series for the first time since 2003-04.