Boy did the Phoenix Suns need this win. Great contributions off the bench came at the right time, as the Suns downed the Timberwolves in (roughly) convincing fashion.
Marcus Thornton had his best game since joining the Suns (14 points, 4 rebounds) and rookie T.J. Warren gave a career-best performance (17 points, 6 rebounds).
Brandan Wright provided great work under the basket as well (11 points, 9 rebounds), as did Marcus Morris (9 rebounds). Markieff Morris had a smooth 24 points (but only 3 rebounds). Eric Bledsoe made a number of midrange jumpers that have been so missing, and so needed, all year long (18 points) while having his best passing game in quite a long time (9 assists, including several of the no-look variety).
Even Seth Curry played the final 1:10.
And the Suns fans cheered the Suns.
The Suns began the game in brutal fashion, failing to make a field goal until almost three minutes had passed. The bench guys were surely getting tired, but didn't cop out on Markieff Morris' free throws, waiting instead for Bledsoe's wide open three to drop.
The Suns got seven quick points at that point to take the lead over a Wolves team that didn't look that good either.
Eric Bledsoe had a... wait for it... beautiful no-look pass to Mook on the break that turned into a three-pointer. And then Markieff Morris had an acrobatic layup off great ball movement to get the Suns going.
Phoenix built a 25-14 lead on the Wolves before they got cocky and missed a couple of threes and allowed a breakaway to Wiggins (not good) followed by (and this is okay for the defense) a 20-foot bank shot by Gorgui Dieng.
Archie was the backup PG when Bledsoe sat down after 11 minutes.
The quarter ended 25-18 Suns, with Marcus Morris being the big scorer with 8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and a block in 12 minutes as a starter.
Archie Goodwin (20) began the second quarter as the PG, facing Zach LaVine (19) in a kiddie battle for the... cough... ages.
Both players pushed the ball hard and were marginally successful. Goodwin was especially helped by Marcus Thornton's best few minutes in a Suns uni - 7 points in the first 3 minutes on good shots within the offense.
The Suns had 10 assists on their first 15 field goals. I call that a victory.
But the offense stalled after that and the Wolves pulled to within 36-32 thanks to a couple of flubbed rebound attempts by the Suns that ended up in Wolves hand, and then the basket.
The Suns fell into one of their common offensive funks (5 minutes without scoring) before some nice off-ball movement got P.J. Tucker got an open jumper in rhythm. But plays like that were few and far between, even with Minnesota trying to help by playing bad D. One thing the Wolves did do well was trap the ball handler, forcing Bledsoe into giving it up and having no other ball handlers on the floor.
Then more of the starters came back, along with T.J. Warren, and the offense started clicking again. Warren scored 10 points by just being available around the basket for dump offs and quick scores.
Amazing work. Love seeing someone move without the ball to make themselves available!
Suns up 50-44 at half, thanks to T.J. Warren's quick 10 points.
The Suns began the third pretty good, with a Markieff drive for FTs then a Bledsoe steal on the inbounds. But Bledsoe was clocked in the face on the move (no foul) and threw the ball away in disgust before being taken out for a few plays to get checked.
Between that and Bledsoe's return to normalcy, the Wolves began backdoor cutting by Justin Hamilton, who lost his defender (Kieff) multiple times. Kieff was scoring okay in this game, but had only ONE rebound halfway through the third.
The Suns only offense for a while was provided by P.J. Tucker, who had two offensive boards/putbacks and a three pointer to give the Suns a 61-57 lead with 7:01 to go in the third.
Once again, Marcus Thornton came in and provided a spark, moving without the ball and making a nice shot in traffic while dishing to Brandan Wright for a lob (who got fouled).
Marcus Morris shot poorly after the first few minutes of the game, but hustled all night and grabbed 9 rebounds while dishing 5 assists through 3 quarters of play.
Suns by 9 after the third quarter (78-69)
After Kieff hit a jumper, Marcus Thornton grabbed a nice rebound, dribbled down and walked into a step back jumper and then made a three on the next possession to give the Suns a 12-point lead.
After a steal and a long three-point heat check, Thornton looked completely gassed. Hornacek called a timeout to give him a breath, but left him in with Goodwin and Warren along with Kieff and Brandan Wright.
T.J. Warren and Archie Goodwin provided spark after that, with a putback on a breakaway and halfcourt miss, respectively.
Thornton continued to give good minutes, if only to draw the defense out to the line because he's a threat to shoot at any time from anywhere.
Bledsoe has made a few step-in jumpers in the elbow area, right where he was hitting so well last year but hasn't done nearly as well this year. That's a good sight to see.
Markieff Morris made a couple of clutch jumpers against rookie Adreian Payne to put the Suns lead back to 10 with 3:49 to go. Warren was a big help all over the court without scoring much, providing on-ball defense against the wings of Minny, including the crafty Kevin Martin, and getting rebounds and/or being available for bail-out passes.