The Phoenix Suns, who announced less than an hour prior to tip-off that Bradley Beal would be out with back tightness, play a white-hot Minnesota Timberwolves team on Wednesday night. The Timberwolves, after quite to raucous affair against the Golden State Warriors the night prior, entered with an 8-2 record and the second seed in the Western Conference.
Devin Booker returned to the lineup for Phoenix, however, and his presence was immediately felt in all aspects of the game. A team that is 28th in the league in turnovers suddenly could hold on to the ball; Phoenix ended with 9 turnovers in the game against the number one defense in the league. A team that sputtered in the fourth quarter with 36.5% shooting — last in the league — found their rhythm. They shot 50% in the fourth.
31 points both by Devin and Kevin led the way for Phoenix, with Booker doing so with just 26 minutes played. Durant logged 35 minutes in the game. Karl Anthony-Towns had 25 points for the Timberwolves.
The win pushes the Suns’ record to 5-6 on the season and 2-1 in games Kevin Durant and Devin Booker play in. Minnesota drops to 8-3.
As mentioned above, the Suns announced that there would be no Bradley Beal in this one as he continues to deal with lower back issues. We’ll have to wait for another day.
Bradley Beal is OUT tonight due to a back injury— NBACentral (@TheDunkCentral) November 16, 2023
No Big 3 debut for PHX pic.twitter.com/L2Tbs7vOIM
With Beal out, Frank Vogel chose to start Devin Booker, Eric Gordon, Grayson Allen, Kevin Durant, and Jusuf Nurkic. Not only would the wait for the big three have to wait, but so too would the rotational strategy that permits Allen and Gordon to come off the bench.
Devin Booker, who has missed the last five games with lower left leg issues, carried the offensive load early. He scored 9 of the Suns’ first 14 points on 4-of-4 shooting.
Devin Booker with NINE of the Phoenix Suns’ 14 first quarter points— Suns Lead (@SunsLead) November 16, 2023
He’s back and he’s looking good pic.twitter.com/4uTqSkuXvB
Josh Okogie hit two three-pointers in the first, a welcomed sight. He had hit 4 total in the first 10 games of the season. That addition to offense is what the Suns need, as any points scored by players other than Kevin Durant or Devin Booker relieve pressure.
Booker was substituted out after 5 minutes, which was expected. Vogel did the same when Bradley Beal was returning from his injury. He returned with 2 minutes left in the quarter, which allowed Vogel to substitute Kevin Durant out.
KD gets first quarter rest. That's different.— John Voita (@DarthVoita) November 16, 2023
Unfortunately, with Durant on the bench, the Suns were not net-positive, allowing the Wolves to outscore them 9-3 for the remainder of the quarter.
Karl Anthony-Towns had a productive first quarter, scoring 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 4-of-4 from the line. The Suns shot 63.2% from the field, led by Booker’s 11, and carried a 35-29 lead into Q2. Phoenix had only 2 turnovers in the quarter.
The second began with something we’ve yet to see this season: a Drew Eubanks three-pointer. And wouldn’t you know, he made it.
Drew Eubanks is currently shooting 100% from three this season ☄️ pic.twitter.com/vPl7HiyO8W— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) November 16, 2023
Phoenix continued to take care of the ball whilst applying offensive pressure, extending their lead to 20 points. Vogel’s substitution patterns allowed Booker and Durant time to not only get rest but to throw different looks at Minnesota on both ends of the floor. Sure, Vogel has been trying this throughout the first 10 games of the season, but when Devin Booker is added to the mix — with his elite offensive abilities — the scoring is stabilized and not desperate.
What does that lead to? KD highlight blocks on Gobert.
We always love when KD puts on his rim-protector hat pic.twitter.com/E0Tyva7ri8— Shane Young (@YoungNBA) November 16, 2023
Durant began heating up in the second after a quiet first quarter. Quiet being 7 points on 2-of-2 from the field. In the second he scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting. In typical KD fashion, he did so in a plethora of ways. Mid-range, from beyond the arc, attacking the cylinder. He finished the first half with 17 points and 5 rebounds.
Eubanks’s energy, finishing ability, and spacing were felt as he had a stellar second quarter. 13 points were aggressively scored. As noted above, he hit a three-pointer, and his affinity for effectively rolling to the rim equated to looks on the interior. And he capitalized.
That’s right. You get two Drewbanks highlights in the first half!
The Suns shot 63% from the field while holding the Wolves to 45%. Add the 10-of-17 from three compared to 3-of-12 for Minny, sprinkle in only 3 turnovers, and it was easy to understand why Phoenix was up 22 points at the half, 76-54.
That was the best half of Suns basketball we've seen this season.— John Voita (@DarthVoita) November 16, 2023
It was a slow start for the Suns in the third quarter as Phoenix’s shooting came back down to earth. This is understandable; shooting 63% for an entire game is unsustainable. Devin Booker, however, remained hot in his return.
Book scored 8 points in the quarter and Phoenix was trading blow-for-blow with the Wolves. Booker went to the bench with 4:24 left in the third. It was the KD time. Durant scored 9 points to close out the quarter, extending the Suns lead to 110-82 at the end of three.
Not even these Suns could blow a 28-point lead, right?
Booker began the fourth with KD on the bench, which is a welcomed change of pace. The issues with Phoenix have been the lack of stability to start the fourth, both from a play making standpoint and a shooting standpoint. Booker negates that.
Still, the Wolves opened on a 15-5 run.
Phoenix entered with 4 turnovers, and in the first 6 minutes, they matched that total with 4. Couple that with allowing offensive rebounds, and that is how you let teams back in the game.
We witnessed Durant-iso when Booker departed, which is something the Suns must address. Upon entering, Durant was responsible for two quick turnovers. The Suns did stabilize, however, responding with a 12-7 run to push the lead back to 23 with 4:32 left to play.
Phoenix emptied the bench with 3:32 left to play. This led to some fun highlights by Chimezie Metu and Nassir Little.
Suns win, 133-115.
Next up for the Suns? A trip to the Beehive State to play the Utah Jazz.
Their game on Friday will count towards their In-Season Tournament record; the Suns are 0-1 after a deflating loss last Friday at the hands of the Lakers. It will be the first of two consecutive games against the Jazz.
Until then, Suns fans