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Dario’s revenge, Rubio’s delight, and lots of candles

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Notes and quotes from the Phoenix Suns’ win over the Wolves.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When the Phoenix Suns beat the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night to solidify their hold on playoff position in the West, the feels were good all around.

The Suns are now 11-12 in the West, having survived the loss of both actual centers as well as their top playmaker for chunks of time. That record might not look that good to you, but please remember the Suns haven’t had a record this good this late in the season since 2015.

Let’s take a walk down interview lane to see what the players thought of it all. And we’re not even going to focus on Devin Booker’s “ho hum” 26 points (11-20 shooting) and 7 assists, which were pretty damn impactful!

Rubio’s delight

We have to start talking about this as a career renaissance for Rubio, who was once considered the next Steve Nash with the way he passed the ball and ran an offense. Finally, at age 28, Rubio has been put in position to look more like Nash than he ever has.

No, Rubio still can’t shoot, but he is passing better than just about anyone in the league and he simply makes the Suns fun to watch.

“I think everybody benefits from Ricky (Rubio)’s ability to manage games, to manage play calling situations,” coach Monty Williams said. “I think Devin (Booker) would sit here and praise Ricky all day because I think he helps Devin, takes a lot of pressure off of him. And that’s his track record. He’s been that way on every team and if you watched him this past summer. He has that will to get his team over the hump.”

On Monday night, Rubio posted another sublime game of 14 assists against only 1 turnover. Here’s the highlights.

That’s Rubio’s 3rd such game of 12+ assists against 1 or 0 turnovers this season alone, the most such games in the whole league. Only LeBron James and Damian Lillard have posted two of those games this year and only four other players have even posted one. Before this season, Rubio had posted 10 such games in eight seasons.

Rubio leads a Suns team that was worst in the league the last few years to this year’s sixth ranked offense, top-ranked assist-making team, and one that seven different players make two or more threes on Monday ... and that wasn’t even the first time they’ve had seven or more players make 2+ threes in a game this year!

The Suns also, as a team, put up 30+ assists with 10 or fewer turnovers for the third time this season — their most such games in a season since 2010-11 ... yes, the Nash years. No other NBA team has had as many such games this year.

“I got to know everybody and what they like,” Rubio says. “I’m seeing good momentum on passing the ball.”

Oubre and Baynes birthdays!

On the same day, Kelly Oubre Jr. turned 24 and Aron Baynes turned 33. I’ve been calling them this age all year, so realizing they’re just NOW turning this age is like they took a drink from the fountain of youth!

Oubre had 24 points on his 24th birthday, while Baynes scored 12 in his return after missing the whole road trip with a strained calf.

Here’s what they had to say about that.

Dario’s Revenge

I’m sure Dario would downplay this game as just another game, but when you make 6 of your first 7 shots, grab 9 rebounds and generally defend Karl-Anthony Towns better than expected, you have to take notice.

Saric was acquired by Minnesota in the Jimmy Butler trade and then dumped on Phoenix in the draft-day trade to acquire Jarrett Culver. The Suns were “stuck” with Dario and Cameron Johnson, according to draft experts afterward, but I think the Suns are okay with the trade results right now.

On Monday, Dario Šarić scored 20 points and grabbed 9 rebounds, his sixth time with 9+ points and 9+ rebounds in the last eight games, averaging 14.0 points on 48.8 percent shooting and 9.8 rebounds over his last eight. Tonight was his second game scoring 20+ points in a game this season.

Saric is rounding into mid-season form, folks, and that always bodes well. He’s a better player as the year goes on, and he really stepped up well this past two weeks with Baynes mostly out, Frank Kaminsky becoming less and less effective in the middle, and Ayton still on suspension. I’m looking forward to Saric having Ayton or Baynes next to him more often the rest of the season.

Up next

Phoenix (11-12) hosts the Memphis Grizzlies (7-16) on Wednesday night. The Suns beat the Grizzlies handily earlier in the year at FedEx Forum.

If the Suns beat the Grizzlies, they will get back to .500 and be winners of four of their last six as they head down to Mexico City for a ‘home’ game against the struggling Spurs (9-14) before hosting Portland (9-15) on Monday.