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Game Preview: Smoldering Suns face frigid Timberwolves

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The Phoenix Suns will brave arctic temperatures in Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Timberwolves on the second stop of a four game road trip.

The future?
The future?
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

When: Wednesday, January 7, 2015, 7:30 PM local time (9:30 ET)

Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

Watch/Listen: TV: ESPN/Fox Sports Arizona  Radio: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM

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Last Meeting:

This is the first of four meeting between the teams this season. The next game between them will be played in nine days at Phoenix.

On March 23, 2014 the Phoenix Suns bested the Timberwolves 127-120 at the Target Center. Kevin Love led the Wolves with 36 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists, while Kevin Martin chipped in 25. The Suns were buoyed by 25 points and eight rebounds from Markieff Morris.

The Suns actually trailed 103-93 after three quarters before turning the game with a 34-17 fourth quarter. The Suns shot a blistering 57.5% from the field.

Team Bios:

Phoenix Suns: 21-16

Points per game: 107.0 (4th)     Points against: 104.5 (28th)

ORtg: 109.6 (5th)     DRtg: 107.0 (20th)

Full team statistics.

The Suns sagged slightly off their blistering offensive output in a 102-96 win over the Milwaukee Bucks last night. After shooting 40.7% from three point range in the previous 10 outings the Suns managed just 28% (7-25) against the Bucks. It was a gutsy effort for the Suns, who trailed by one entering the fourth quarter and pulled out the game despite struggling early.

Markieff Morris lifted the Suns, who have now won 9 of 11, with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Isaiah Thomas provided a much needed offensive punch off the bench with 19 points. The Suns are now 12-9 on the road this season, including 6-2 in their last eight away from home.

The Suns managed to overcome a 15 point first quarter against Milwaukee to reach the century mark for their ninth straight game. The Suns can move into a virtual tie for seventh place with the San Antonio Spurs, who lost to the Detroit Pistons last night, with a win against the Wolves. The Suns face the Spurs in San Antonio on Friday night.

Minnesota Timberwolves: 5-28

Points per game: 98.4 (21st)     Points against: 108.5 (30th)

ORtg: 102.2 (26th)     DRtg: 112.7 (30th)

Full team statistics.

The hapless Wolves have lost 12 games in a row in what has already become a lost season. Even before the season's midway point they have little to play for but player development and a top three pick. Starters Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic have managed to play in just a combined 23 games this season. Minnesota appears to be embracing the suck evidenced by a recent talent dump that sent Corey Brewer to the Houston Rockets.

The Wolves are the worst defensive team in the NBA by almost every measure. They are last in the league in DRtg and opponent FG% and allow the most three point shots while giving up the second highest percentage. They are even 28th in defensive rebounding percentage and next to last in the league in total rebounds. Unfortunately, Minnesota complements their defensive shortcomings with a pitifully ineffective offense.

Andrew Wiggins leads all rookies, and active Timberwolves, in scoring with 13.9 a game. The future of the franchise has been on a bit of a tear recently, with 20 or more points in six of his last seven outings. Youngsters Shabazz Muhammad and Zach Lavine have been getting plenty of burn, though veteran Mo Williams got the starting nod over Lavine in the team's last game. The Wolves lost 110-101 to the Denver Nuggets despite 22 points and 12 rebounds from Gorgui Dieng.

What To Watch For:

Free for Three - The Wolves allow the most three point attempt and give up the second highest percentage in the league. The Suns take the second most and shoot the sixth best percentage. Look for Phoenix to bounce back from a terrible night (7-25) against the Milwaukee Bucks.

112 - The Suns have scored at least this many points in six of their past eight games. That would figure to get it done against the team that is 26th in ORtg.

-22 - That is the real feel temperature in Minneapolis as I post this... But the Suns can't allow the weather and tired legs be an excuse to lose to one of the worst three teams in the NBA.

The Final Word(s):

A win against Minnesota would set up even greater drama for Friday night basketball against the Spurs. This is a game that the Suns need to put in their back pocket if they intend to achieve its goal of making the playoffs.

I like the Suns big, with Phoenix's tyros getting time against the young Wolves at the end.