<
>

Pistons top T-Wolves as Saunders faces former team

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Flip Saunders didn't want to make a
big deal about coaching against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Still, the new Detroit Pistons coach couldn't enjoy the feeling
of seeing Kevin Garnett on the other side for the first time.

"I knew exactly what Kevin was going to do to us," Saunders
said after Detroit's 91-80 exhibition victory on Sunday against his
former team. "I must have seen it a thousand times."

Saunders coached Minnesota from 1995-05 before replacing Larry
Brown during the offseason.

"I know all those guys, so it was an odd feeling," Saunders
said. "But I have a new group now. A new family."

"It was pretty weird, I'm not even going to lie," said
Garnett, who played for Saunders for his entire stint in Minnesota.
"I think forever, until I'm out of this league, when I see Flip,
we're always going to have that connection."

One of the issues facing Saunders in Detroit is trying to decide
who will be his backup swingman. Ronald Dupree, who is battling
Maurice Evans and Carlos Delfino for the position, made his case
with 13 points and seven rebounds against Minnesota.

"We've got 15 guys under contract, so this is about finding a
role," Dupree said. "I'm just trying to stay patient and play
hard. I'm feeling good, and it is showing on the court."

Dupree had only played 10 minutes in Detroit's first two games,
but took advantage of his 25 minutes on Sunday.

"We're trying to look at different guys in that spot -- tonight,
we rested Mo and maybe we'll limit Delfino in the next game,"
Saunders said. "Ron was good tonight. He's an NBA player, and I
don't just mean someone to fill a roster spot. He can play in this
league. He's going to make this a tough decision."

Rasheed Wallace scored 15 points for Detroit, which improved to
3-0 in the exhibition season. Chauncey Billups added 10 points for
the Pistons, while Delfino had nine. Detroit outrebounded Minnesota
45-33.

"There were times that it seemed like we were firing on two or
three cylinders," Saunders said. "But we got it going in the
third quarter and the second unit did a nice job in the fourth."

Richie Frahm led Minnesota with 13 points. Trenton Hassell
scored 12 and Garnett added 11.

"It was a good effort tonight," Minnesota coach Dwane Casey
said. "It was a positive effort against a very good Pistons
team."

The teams were tied at 44 at the half, and still deadlocked at
57 late in the third quarter. Detroit, though, went on an 8-0 run
that included four points from Wallace, and led 67-59 at the end of
the period.

Darko Milicic then helped Detroit seal the victory with seven
points, a block and a steal in the first 3:30 of the fourth
quarter. Milicic finished with all 10 of his points in the fourth.

"We know what our top six or seven guys can do, so we measure
progress by the development of the other guys," Saunders said.
"Darko did a nice job of protecting the lane tonight."