The game started off rather innocuously. The sounds of squeaking sneakers were much more pronounced than the cheers from the subdued crowd. Goran Dragic was having his way on offense, getting to his spots for relatively uncontested looks. Goran was 3-3 from the field early and also had two assists to account for 10 of the Suns' points as they built a 12-7 lead.
The Suns as a whole weren't lighting it up in the quarter, but feisty play was keeping them in the lead. Three offensive rebounds on one possession, two by Miles Plumlee, led to a pair of made free throws by Markieff Morris.
The three point shooting funk from last game was still in full effect, and an 0-6 start from deep was foiling the Suns' opportunity to widen the lead. Suddenly, Minnesota seized control (19-15) on a five point series when Wiggins missed a free throw after he was fouled on a made basket, but an offensive rebound was converted into a three pointer by Mo Williams.
Phoenix basically imploded at that point, missing 12 straight shots before Isaiah Thomas halted a stretch of 6:24 without a made field goal. Fortunately, the Suns were playing the Timberwolves and managed to limp to the buzzer only trailing by five.
Score: Wolves 25, Suns 20
Minnesota stretched their lead to seven (29-22) early in the quarter, but the Suns crawled back within two on hustle points. Three came in the form of a bomb from deep by Thomas after he snagged the rebound of his own missed layup. Gerald Green and Isaiah were doing the heavy lifting for the Suns, scoring 12 of the team's 14 points over a span that bridged the first and second periods.
Things just weren't going the Suns way. Shabazz Muhammad had an embarrassing whiff on a wide open dunk, but the ball flew right into Mo Williams waiting hands and he drilled a three. It was Mo's third triple so far and the reeling Suns found themselves trailing by nine.
Goran was doing his best to keep the Suns close, twisting, contorting and scoring in the paint. Four consecutive free throws for the Suns on fouls by Robbie Hummel shriveled the Wolves lead to three.
The real important takeaway there is that the Suns were losing to a team giving rotation minutes to Robbie Hummel.
Andrew Wiggins finally got the home crowd energized with a thrilling throwdown on a fastbreak, but Eric Bledsoe responded on the other end as he skied for a putback jam. The Suns couldn't quite manage to wrestle the lead back away from Minnesota, though, as putrid three point shooting (2-15) was their undoing. The offensively challenged Wolves finished the first half shooting 50% from the field.
Score: Wolves 48, Suns 45
The start to the second half was hot, fetid garbage. Well, actually... the Wolves were hot and the Suns were fetid garbage. A 12-2 run right out of the gate put Minnesota up by 13 (60-47). Shabazz scored the first eight for Minnesota, and his first eight in the game, all in fairly spectacular fashion.
Phoenix looked much less discombobulated coming out of the break and rolled off eight straight points of their own. Markieff and Bledsoe were starting to put it together after a disjointed first half. Dueling pianos time.
Then Markieff Morris racked up another technical foul. At least it was another one of the ridiculously moronic variety. He just loves him some complaining.
Not to be outdone by Shabazz earlier, Len managed to create his own blooper moment when he airballed a three after not realizing the shot clock had reset. Serendipitously, Goran was waiting under the basket, gobbled up the miss and laid it back in uncontested. Dragic was having himself a game, already up to a game high 22 points.
Len was absolutely dominating down low. The Wolves looked helpless in their attempts to penetrate his impregnable defense of the painted area. He was already credited with four blocks, but it seemed like he might have had twice that many. The Wolves were throwing up wild shots from under the basket that didn't even draw rim as they tried to evade his reach.
Then Marcus got a T. More free points for the bad guys. He really seemed to get into it with coach Hornacek on the bench, too. Screaming right in Jeff's face. Seemed pretty classy.
But after the Suns' surge, Alex's authority, Goran's grace and the Morrii's mindless mishaps Phoenix still trailed. Mo Williams drained a three from several feet behind the line just before the buzzer to give Minnesota back a seven point advantage. He had stayed warmed up by making three technical free throws during the quarter.
Score: Wolves 78, Suns 71
Gerald Green finally hit a couple threes for the Suns to kick off the fourth quarter, but even after his two bombs the team was just 4-24 from long range. Still, Green was up to 14 points on the night and appeared to be threatening to enter human torch mode. Behind his pyrotechnics the Suns had clawed back to within a point.
Perhaps the momentum was finally shifting in a game that Minnesota had basically controlled throughout.
After a timeout, Gerald nailed a pull-up three in transition. The Suns had retaken the lead 84-82. Two more free throws and Green had 13 fourth quarter points in less than four minutes. En fuego.
Despite Green's heat check the Wolves weren't going anywhere. After Green missed a second attempt at a three in transition and Bledsoe nearly had an amazing putback Minnesota's phenom Wiggins drilled a jumper to knot things back up at 90 each.
Alex Len was once again making his presence felt as he scored on offensive rebounds on three of four times down the court for the Suns. He actually had another missed tip on the other trip. Len was absolutely terrifying during stretches of this game.
Coming down the stretch the teams were trading blows, both in scoring and with increasingly physical play. Thaddeus Young with a driving layup. Goran stopping on a dime to create separation for a pull up jumper. Williams with a tough contested shot on the other end. Isaiah free throws. Wiggins with a pair of his own. Isaiah to the rack.
Phoenix finally got a stop after a scrum under their hoop and Markieff did what Markieff does, hitting a stepback midrange jumper to put the Suns up by three.
After a timeout Bledsoe stole the inbounds pass and streaked for a savage breakaway jam. Suns by five. Wiggins got to the basket at the other end, but Markieff responded once again by draining an open shot from 20 feet.
A three by Thaddeus Young gave the Wolves some life, and after Goran missed one of two from the line Minnesota was back within one (112-111) on two LaVine free throws with 6.3 second left.
Isaiah Thomas was fouled and went to the line with 5.5 seconds left. He missed the second attempt and the Wolves, who had no timeouts left, made a frenzied effort to move the ball up the court for a shot. They got a good one...
Andrew Wiggins missed a clean look from three and the Suns survived.
No bounces this time.
Final Score: Suns 113, Wolves 111
Player of the Game:
Lots of choices here, but I'm going to go with Gerald Green. His 15 point explosion to start the fourth quarter really changed the tone of the game and elevated the Suns' confidence. Green finished with 21 points on 8-16 from the field and had three of the team's five threes.
Dragic made 11-12 from two point range to finish with 25 points for the Suns and Isaiah had nine of his 17 points in the fourth quarter.
Andrew Wiggins looked like the #1 overall pick with 25 points for the Wolves and several spectacular plays. Mo Williams had 23 points and 11 assists before limping off the court in the closing seconds after he twisted his leg awkwardly.
The Suns really struggled early in this game, but they weren't lacking effort. Nine offensive rebounds and eight steals in the first half were a big reason they kept the game close. The Suns finished with 14 offensive rebounds, 14 steals and eight blocked shots. Pretty gritty performance overall.
42 fourth quarter points. The Suns needed every last one of them. After a terrible first half Phoenix actually shot 60.8% (28-46) in the second half.
I might have nightmares about Alex Len tonight. I'm sure Minnesota will. Len has now had at least five blocks in three of the last four games. It was almost comical watching Minnesota players heaving wild shots just hoping not to get them shoved right back down their throats. The series of putbacks in the fourth was also instrumental in securing the victory. Len played much bigger than the box score.
Props again to the Wolves for the Mario coin block sounder on made free throws. I don't know why, but I just love that.
Just when you thought 7-25 was bad... Did Minnesota turn off the heat in Phoenix's locker room? The Suns managed just a meager 5-26 from deep in their curtain call. What gives? It's a testament to this team's fortitude that they were able to sweep a back to back in which they shot 12-51 from deep, but they're going to need to find their rhythm against the Spurs and Grizzlies.
Getting Technical - Markieff and Marcus do it again. This time the Suns narrowly escaped and the free points didn't come back to haunt them. The scene with Marcus was particularly disturbing as he was screaming in Hornacek's face while ESPN was broadcasting the temper tantrum all across the country. They even cut back to Marcus later in the fourth and he was still visibly upset and talking/muttering. Marcus never returned to the game after the incident.
Hopefully it wasn't as bad as it looked.
Tell me you didn't think Wiggins' shot was still going to go in after it bounced off the rim. After Griffin and Middleton the rule of three had a perfect opportunity to bare its gaping grin, but the Suns cheated death.
Hopefully the jinx is over.
The Timberwolves sure looked awful damn good for a team that's 5-29. Not all of that can be laid at the feet of the Suns. I thought Phoenix mostly played well after the first quarter with the exception of a few lapses. If that was one of their better efforts, the Suns withstood it.
I kind of expected a potentially boring game against a crappy team. This was not that.
Now Phoenix is 10-2 in its last 12 games, winners of seven of nine on the road and 2-0 on its current road trip headed to San Antonio for a Friday night contest that could catapult the Suns past the Spurs in the standings.
I can't wait.