What: Phoenix Suns (40-35) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (39-37)
When: 7:00 p.m. AZ Time
Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona
Watch: Bally Sports AZ, ESPN
Listen: 98.7 FM
Welcome to the nitty gritty.
The Suns have 7 games left in the regular season, and so much is still up in the air. Coming to town is a team in the Minnesota Timberwolves who are feeling good about themselves, and the matchup on Wednesday night has postseason implications.
Let’s start with the Suns, shall we? Phoenix has won their past two games and is welcoming Kevin Durant back to the starting lineup.
After missing 10 games with a sprained ankle, Phoenix Suns All-NBA star Kevin Durant will make his return Wednesday vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves barring setback, league sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. pic.twitter.com/vePOrtWS7W— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 28, 2023
His absence has been missed; after going 3-0 with him, the team has gone 4-6 without him. Prior to their last two games, that was 2-6. It’s been an unsettling time in the Valley.
The T’Wolves have won four in a row, which has seen them go from the 10 seed to the 6 seed in the blink of an eye. Karl Anthony-Towns, who hadn’t played since late November, has returned and given the team an offensive boost. In a crucial win over the Golden State Warriors, KAT sniped two critical three-points in the late stages to propel his team to a win.
Karl-Anthony Towns. Second game back. What winded up as the dagger.— ProCity Hoops (@ProCityHoops) March 27, 2023
Big time. pic.twitter.com/5k77DaP5dK
Minnesota followed it up by downing the Sacramento Kings on Monday night, and they did so without Towns. They are on a heater and peaking at the right time.
The addition of Mike Conley has cured many of the Timberwolves’ issues. Conley came over in the deal that sent D’Angelo Russell to the Lakers, and since his arrival the team has gone 9-9. But they’ve been getting better. Conley is a traditional point guard, which allows the backcourt to function as it’s meant to. Anthony Edwards doesn’t need to facilitate nearly as much as he did with D’Lo, and the team is finding their identity.
For the Suns, that is the goal. To find their identity. There isn’t much time prior to the postseason for Phoenix to fine tune their engine. Rotations need to be streamlined. Minutes need to be distributed accordingly. All while Kevin Durant is coming off of his second lower body injury of the year. All while the Suns are in dire need of stacking wins.
- Kevin Durant (knee) is PROBABLE
- Anthony Edwards (calf) is PROBABLE
- Karl Anthony-Towns (calf) is PROBABLE
- Taurean Prince (illness) is QUESTIONABLE
- Jaylen Nowell (knee) is QUESTIONABLE
- Matt Ryan (illness) is OUT
What to Watch For
KD vs. KAT.
Since March 20, when the Wolves began their four game win streak, they’ve scored 120.8 points-per-game, doing so by shooting 44.7% from beyond the arc. The re-insertion of Karl Anthony-Towns gives them that option. Offensively, he likes to shoot the three-ball, and he has done so at a 50% clip since returning.
Will KAT attack KD on defense in an effort to wear him out? That’s not really his game, is it?
Monty Williams moist likely will have Durant on a minutes restriction, but if he plays his cards right, isolating Towns on defense is a win.
Durant’s ball handling skills are a very clear advantage. If he runs the high pick and roll using Deandre Ayton as the screener, the Timberwolves will be forced to make a decision. Do they jump the pick and roll? Or do they fall into a drop coverage, leaving KD open to shoot? Given Towns’ size and speed (or lack thereof), fighting through the pick and roll will be challenging.
In their history against each other, Durant is 9-3 and averages 26.5 points to KAT’s 20.8. They haven’t faced each other in 1,460 days...exactly 4 years ago on March 29, 2019.
Keys to a Suns Win
The bench. You know, the guys that national pundits believe lacks depth?
Over the last 10 games, the Suns’ bench has scored 53.3 points-per-game. That is number one in the NBA. They are a +34, which is third. So much for that narrative, eh?
In the same time, the Wolves’ second team unit is a -11. If the Suns can continue to get scoring production from T.J. Warren, Terrance Ross, and Cameron Payne, it makes them hard to beat. The biggest challenge that lies ahead is how Monty distributes minutes. If KD plays 28, that takes away from someone. Who will it be?
>>cough<< Torrey Craig >>cough<<
It’s hard to bet against the Suns when Kevin Durant is on the floor. Couple that with the fact that it will be his first home game and the arena and atmosphere will be electric. Every shot. Every made three. Every defensive shut down. The crowd will be engaged.
That being said, the Timberwolves have just beat the Warriors and the Kings in similar environments. Both arenas are notorious for their rowdiness. They are entering with a confidence that needs to be silenced.
If the Suns can jump the Wolves, if they can convert an emotionally charged first quarter into points on the scoreboard, this is an easy win. Minnesota is 15th in the NBA in 3PT% and 3PA. Digging themselves out of large holes isn’t their forte.
Suns 131, Wolves 117
When the game is over, join the Suns JAM Session Podcast as we discuss the game live on YouTube:
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