The scoring started with a quick post-up by Andrew Wiggins over Devin Booker. Teams still feel like they can get a good shot against Booker in isolation which may not be true depending on the night but is worrisome when it comes to teams’ game plan. They attack Booker and make him play defense and it can wear him out.
Then, just like in Sunday’s game, Minnesota got easy points off a Karl-Anthony Towns putback to create an early lead. The Timberwolves put Towns in different spots nearly every trip down the court to confuse defenses and space the floor. It worked early in both games against Phoenix.
So the Suns started sending extra help — courtesy of De’Anthony Melton — at Towns to force him to give up the ball. He’s smart and patient enough that he kept the ball and still got off interior shots, starting 2-4 from the field for four points.
ALSO THERE WERE TWO DRAGAN BENDER DRIVING DUNKS IN THE FIRST QUARTER.
But before Bender could get too much rhythm, he notched his second foul, another byproduct of Towns’ dominance. Remember with Deandre Ayton and Richaun Holmes out, Bender was one of only two real centers active in this game. Quincy Acy checked in with about five minutes remaining, as did Josh Jackson to give the Suns more defense on the floor.
The next timeout break, Kelly Oubre Jr. entered the game to form a Point Book lineup against Minnesota’s size. Within the smaller unit, Phoenix’s defense created good offense and Josh Jackson scored 11 points in the first quarter.
The Wolves led, 32-27, at the end of the first.
You’ve seen this movie before. The Suns used pesky defense to get out in transition against opponents’ reserves and narrow the margin. Jackson in particular hijacked the Suns offense and it...worked! He added three more quick points in the first couple minutes of the quarter to his total and the Suns tied the game at 35.
Unfortunately, Minnesota got to 35 only after a technical was called on Booker for griping at officials from the bench. The feisty relationship between the Suns and NBA refs continued at home against the Wolves.
It continued with a (deserved) charge call on Oubre as he tried for his third basket of the period, a transition layup against the smaller Jerryd Bayless. That stopped a stretch of solid play from the Suns and quickly turned into an open 3 for Towns. Coach Igor Kokoskov called a timeout with 5:39 left.
This game felt a lot like Sunday’s contest, especially when it came to Towns’ production. Minnesota’s star put up 20 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists in his 18 first-half minutes.
Minnesota led, 64-49, at the half.
T.J. Warren left the game in the second quarter with a sore right foot and the team announced at halftime he would not return.
Something was off about Booker in this one. After starting the game aggressive in transition, the Suns’ star was quiet. Whether as a result of lingering pain in his back or midseason lethargy, he had minimal impact for much of the game, continuing from his quiet night on Sunday in Minneapolis.
Rebounding also continued to plague the Suns as they fell behind 20 with seven minutes to go in the third. Towns and Andrew Wiggins were the primary guys attacking the boards but it was a team effort. Up 20, Minnesota nearly doubled up the Suns in rebounding midway through the period.
A play or two later, Booker got into a scuffle with Minnesota reserve big man Gorgui Dieng, shoving at Dieng as the teams set up for an inbound pass. Acy responded by shoving Dieng away to get the two away from one another and security had to enter the court to separate the teams.
Dieng and Booker were each ejected, leaving the Suns without Ayton, Holmes, Warren and Booker.
Wolves led after three, 93-71.
The Suns were simply outmanned. Without four of their best players, Minnesota stomped on them. Towns finished with 25-18-7 and Wiggins had 17-9. On to the next...