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Game Preview: Suns play Minnesota again, this time in Phoenix

Let’s hope the second game of this home-and-home plays out with a better result than the first for the Suns.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

What: Minnesota Timberwolves at Phoenix Suns

When: 7:00 p.m. AZ time

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix

Watch: Fox Sport Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM

The Suns play a rare home-and-home series against the Timberwolves, a team who beat the Suns with a last-second jumper from Derrick Rose on Sunday.

Now the Suns get to face the Wolves on their own turf, with their own home crowd cheering them on in the final seconds. If the game is close again, the Suns might be able to pull off the win based on the crowd’s energy, right?

The Suns have indeed won their last two home games, beating the Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets, using fuel from the crowd to help them close out the games. Now they have a chance to run their home winning streak to three against the Wolves.

You already know from Sunday’s game preview that the Wolves are right in the playoff hunt under Flip’s son, Ryan, as coach now that Tom Thibodeau was fired.

Let’s take a closer look at the important players in tonight’s game.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Towns was a man of two games on Sunday. In the first half, he bullied his way to a crazy high 28 points, including 13 free throws, just dominating the paint against the Suns’ undersized middle of Dragan Bender and Quincy Acy, who played only because Suns starter Deandre Ayton and backup Richaun Holmes were injured.

But in the second half, Towns scored only two points. Part of that is Towns losing his edge, but a bigger part was the Suns actively double-teaming Towns every time he got the ball and Towns did not handle it well. Bender held his ground well in that half too.

Which Towns will we see tonight?

Derrick Rose

Towns and Rose seemed to hand off the reins at halftime. While Towns had 28 in the first half and only 2 in the second half, Rose did nearly the opposite with 2 in the first half and 29 in the second half, including the game winner.

I know that Derrick Rose is a former MVP of the league (2011) and that any great night he has should not be so astonishing, but man was Sunday just a bit astonishing.

Rose’s 28 second-half points were surgical, mostly acquired on mid-range jumpers. His game winner from the right side of the key, just inside the three-point line, was his favorite spot all night. The Suns need to decide if they are going to defend Rose any differently on Tuesday.

Devin Booker

After a rough initial return from injury, Booker had a very good road trip but was unable to help close out the Wolves win in the final minutes like we all need him to do.

Booker threw a bad pass on the Suns’ second to last possession, then got the ball stripped on a drive on their final possession. Scores on either of those plays could have iced the game.

Booker seems stuck in between being a good distributor and good shooting guard, lately not doing either of them as well as he possibly could.

He’s making a career-high 52 percent of this two-pointers that include a lot of midrange jumpers and drives to the rack. As a passer, he’s clearly become better with a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio since December began and a top-ten rank in assists and “potential” assists per game.

But he can’t make threes — even the open ones are iffy — and doesn’t really make the right decisions as a ball handler in crunch time after being one of the better young players in crunch time until this point as a shooter.

And, I don’t like the headband. He looks like he just got triaged by the medic on the battle field and sent back into action.

Kelly Oubre Jr.

Start this kid already. Whether it’s for Mikal Bridges or T.J. Warren, I no longer care. Yes, the Suns got off to a better start this past game (leading after one quarter), but Oubre has just been playing so well he deserves the promotion and the current Suns starting lineup just doesn’t come out with the right juice on most nights.

Over his past seven games, Oubre is scoring 20.3 points per game (39% on threes), grabbing 6.1 rebounds and collecting more than 5 assists-steals-blocks per game.

Also, get this kid into more high-leverage defensive situations at end of games. Sure, the other team somewhat controls the final matchup on picks and screens and other actions, but I feel bad for Mikal Bridges constantly being put in position as the lone defender on the game’s final possession and watching him get beat. It’s been happening all season, and I don’t like it.

Do whatever you can, Igor, to get Oubre onto that final defensive island and see what happens.

Bold Prediction

I predict a win!

Dragan Bender will produce another double-double, Devin Booker will MAKE his final shot this time, and Kelly Oubre will stifle the opponent on their final shot.

Suns win!

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