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Phoenix Suns looking to start road trip right against Minnesota Timberwolves

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The Suns took the first meeting 118-110 on Nov. 11

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Phoenix Suns Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns at Minnesota Timberwolves

Time: 1:30 pm (Phoenix time)

TV: Fox Sports Arizona

Radio: 98.7 FM


G’day! You’re just in time for Holidays with Deadpoolio. Today’s celebration is whatever bacchanal of spending they’ve crammed in between Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday…so Police Auction Sunday?

The Phoenix Suns (7-13) embark on their longest road trip of the season today, with their first stop being Minneapolis to face down the Minnesota Timberwolves (11-8).

T-Wolves Update

The Timberwolves have lost three out of their last four, with their latest being a 109-97 loss at home to the Miami Heat. They currently own the fifth-best record in the Western Conference despite the recent slide.

Third-year center Karl-Anthony Towns leads a talented Minnesota roster with 20.3 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per game but has not cracked 20 points in his last five outings. Andrew Wiggins is second at 18.8 points but is shooting career lows from both the 3-point (.289) and free throw (.639) lines. Jimmy Butler, who came over in a major trade with the Chicago Bulls over the summer, has struggled to find his role within his new team, averaging 17 points (his lowest scoring average since 2013-14) and seeing nearly all his numbers dip year over year. His 3-point shooting (.391) is a career high, though. Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson are two more newcomers who round out the starting lineup for head coach Tom Thibodeau. The bench consists primarily of Jamal Crawford, Nemanja Bjelica, Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad, and Tyus Jones, but none of them averages more than 18 minutes a night. That’s so Thibodeau.

Considering the defensive reputation Thibodeau has around the league, it is surprising to see how poorly his team has performed at that end of the court. While they are fourth in the league in steals per game (9.0) and their 3-point defense rates 11th in the league at 35.4 percent, they allow their opponents to shoot 55.5 percent inside the arc and 48.5 percent overall (both last in the NBA) thanks, in part, to an anemic 3.7 blocks per game. As a result, they rank T-25th in the NBA for opponent scoring at 108.3. Offensively, the T-Wolves average 107.5 points per game on shooting averages that are near the league mean, but they do good work from the free throw line, making an NBA-best 20.8 per game while attempting 26.5 (third-most in the NBA).

Team Leaders

Points: Karl-Anthony Towns (20.3)

Rebounds: Karl-Anthony Towns (11.5)

Assists: Jeff Teague (7.5)

Suns Update

The Suns are coming off a 24-point loss to the New Orleans Pelicans at home on Friday where they showed as much interest in winning the game as the front office has in assembling a competitive basketball team.

What to do, what to do? Head coach Jay Triano has three healthy and productive centers, but none of them provide enough difference in their games for the answer to be play them together. It’s a rotation nightmare, and has left Alex Len stuck on the bench while Greg Monroe backs up starter Tyson Chandler. Triano went with Monroe at power forward instead of Marquese Chriss against the Pelicans to counter the DeMarcus Cousins/Anthony Davis front line, but that didn’t pay dividends. Whether Triano sticks with his Chandler/Monroe/Len pecking order or mixes things up will be something to watch on this road trip.

Some bad news about the Suns as a team: They still can’t buy a 3-pointer to save their lives (32.3 percent, 29th) and have sticky hands (19.2 assists, 29th). Some good news about the Suns as a team: They are second in the NBA in offensive rebounding (11.6), fourth in total rebounding (47.1), and ninth in blocks (5.6).

Team Leaders

Points: Devin Booker (22.5)

Rebounds: Tyson Chandler (9.6)

Assists: Devin Booker (4.2)

Injury Report

Devin Booker (Suns): right big toe inflammation (QUESTIONABLE)

Brandon Knight (Suns): torn left ACL (OUT)

Davon Reed (Suns): torn left meniscus (OUT)

Alan Williams (Suns): torn right meniscus (OUT)

Nemanja Bjelica (T-Wolves): left mid-foot sprain (QUESTIONABLE)

Jeff Teague (T-Wolves): sore right Achilles (QUESTIONABLE)

Justin Patton (T-Wolves): fractured left foot (OUT)

Game Preview

The Suns beat Minnesota 118-110 back on Nov. 11 in Phoenix. That game saw T.J. Warren and Devin Booker each score 35 points and the Suns close the game on a 21-7 run, but I’m sure the T-Wolves don’t remember any of that, right? Anyway, Minnesota is a team still trying to find itself here in November — particularly its defensive identity. They rank last at defending inside the 3-point line, and the Suns get 58.1 percent of their offense inside the arc this season. If Phoenix can exploit that, they could be looking at a 2-0 record against the Wolves. If they can’t, well, as Clarice sang to Rudolph: there’s always tomorrow….

Key Matchup

T.J. Warren vs. Andrew Wiggins

Warren will be one of the primary beneficiaries of Minnesota’s lax interior defense, as 92.3 percent of his field goal attempts come inside the 3-point line. He could easily duplicate his 35-point output from the last meeting between these two teams; however, he will need to play the other end of the court as well. Wiggins is the second leading scorer on the T-Wolves and dropped a team-high 27 points in the first meeting. The Suns simply cannot afford for Warren to play Wiggins to a draw.

Deadpoolio’s Neat-o Stat of the Game Preview (brought to you by basketball-reference.com)

T.J. Warren had a great 3-point shooting game against the New Orleans Pelicans — at least by his standards. His 1-of-2 shooting night bumped his season percentage from 8.7 percent to 12 percent.

That percentage is currently sixth worst in the NBA for any player with at least one made 3-pointer. But it’s not like he doesn’t shoot many; Warren is on pace to attempt 102.5 3-pointers this season. If he maintains this cold shooting for the duration, he will shatter the old record for 3-point futility (min. 100 attempts) set by Lance Stephenson in 2014-15 (17.1 percent).

All stats courtesy of NBA.com and basketball-reference.com.