When we last saw the Timberwolves, they hung 127 points on the Suns in Phoenix behind 14-22 3-point shooting, Nikola Pekovic outplaying Marcin Gortat, who was in foul trouble most of the night, and three bench players scoring in double figures in a 127-124 Wolves win.
It was a disappointing loss for a Suns team that was starting to gain momentum last month and had beaten the Wolves nine consecutive times before that game, but turned out to be a mere bump in the road as Phoenix won their next four and have climbed back into the playoff race at 29-27
The Wolves, meanwhile, have fallen on hard times, posting a 3-11 record since that March 12th victory, including their current five-game losing streak. Their record now stands at 25-32, and Minnesota is all but eliminated from playoff contention. They've been missing rising star point guard Ricky Rubio, out for the season due to a knee injury, and his backup Luke Ridnour is also currently out with a sprained ankle.
In the Wolves' last three games, they've lost to the worst teams in the Western Conference: the Kings, Warriors and Hornets. This, Suns fans, is a team on the skids. But they still have All-Star Kevin Love, the gigantic Pekovic, and scorers Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams.
With 10 games left in a playoff race, trailing the 8th spot by a game, the Suns can't afford to slip up against a sputtering Wolves team.
The Suns are coming off their best offensive performance of the season in a 125-105 win over the Lakers Saturday night. Michael Redd and Shannon Brown exploded for a combined 47 points, Phoenix made 14 3-point shots and committed only 3 turnovers. In the 7 games Brown has started since Grant Hill went down with his knee injury, he's averaging 17.6 PPG and 4.3 RPG on 45% FG shooting.
Redd looks to be rounding into better health and conditioning and is providing the scoring pop in short stretches that the Suns have needed from a bench player, averaging 8,0 PPG in 14.4 MPG and leading the Suns in points/36 minutes with 20.0. The low risk signing of a player whose skill set exactly fits the Suns needs was a major win for the Suns front office, as Wil noted.
In the last meeting, Pekovic thorougly outplayed Gortat, scoring 24 points and getting Gortat into foul trouble. Gortat scored only 8 points to go with 4 rebounds in 20 minutes of action, but still had a chance to be the hero before missing two critical FTs late in the game. I'm looking forward to a Gortat redemption game tonight. At 290 lbs, Pekovic has a size advantage on Gortat, but he doesn't have the agility and quickness to keep up with our hard-working Pole. Gortat needs to show that tonight, and I expect he will.
This game has the potential to look similar to Saturday night's Lakers game, as Wolves bigs Love and Pekovic will be hard to handle, but the Suns should be able to continue their high-scoring ways against a Wolves team that does't play strong defense.
ESPN2 will broadcast the game, and I'm sure that looked much better to their programming directors when it figured to be a Ricky Rubio/Steve Nash matchup. They'll have to settle for J.J. Barea instead of Rubio.
PG Steve Nash vs. J.J. Barea
SG Shannon Brown vs. Martell Webster
SF Jared Dudley vs. Wesley Johnson
PF Channing Frye vs. Kevin Love
C Marcin Gortat vs. Nikola Pekovic