Playing their first game of a season-high seven game road trip, the Timberwolves won in a shootout in Phoenix, defeating the Suns 127-124. Kevin Love hit shot after shot in the fourth quarter as the Timberpups fended off the Suns late efforts to grab a late lead. Continuing his dominance in the month of March, K-Love scored 30 points despite having a quiet first half, and netted 5 of his 9 three-point attempts. Love is beginning to garnger legitimate MVP attention and it is well deserved. With Ricky Rubio out for the season due to a torn ACL, the Pups shot lights out and snapped a 9 game losing streak to the Suns.
Big Nikola Pekovic played another great game tonight and got the best of a tough matchup against Suns center Marcin Gortat. Pek scored 24 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, and remains to be a force down low for the Pups. The tandem of Love and Pekovic has proved to be a matchup nightmare for opposing frontcourts, and the impressive play from the Wolves’ big men has helped to take pressure away from their guards, who are having a much tougher time getting it done.
Getting another start at PG, Luke Ridnour really struggled offensively throughout most of the contest but got it done in the fourth quarter, ending with 10 points and 9 assists in 33 minutes of play. In relief, JJ Barea made his return from a sprained ankle and provided fine production off of the bench, scoring just 3 points but recording 8 dimes in 15 minutes. The loss of Rubio really hurts from a depth standpoint, and the Timberwolves now have to rely on Ridnour and the injury-prone Barea for the majority of the minutes running the point. Defensively, the guards did a poor job, but fulfilled their job of distributing the rock and setting up teammates for opportunities. Luckily, the Pups brought their best shooting and were narrowly able to take down a surging Suns squad.
After one half, the Timberwolves led the Suns 63-56. The Pups bench, powered by Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley, scored 40 points in the first half alone. As a team, the Wolves shot 53% from the field compared to the Suns’ 48%. Michael Beasley received ooh’s and aah’s from the Phoenix crowd after scoring 15 first half points on 6-7 shooting in just 10 minutes of play. However, Beas received only 6 minutes in the second half and failed to attempt another shot the rest of the game in what ended up being a head-scratching stat line for the young scorer. How does the Timberwolves hottest offensive weapon in the first half end up not attempting one shot in the second half, and why did he receive only 6 minutes in the second half after scoring 15 points in 10 minutes? The T-Wolves left the building with the win, but Rick Adelman’s substitutions tonight bewildered a Phoenix crowd that witnessed Beasley score at will when in the game.
In Derrick William’s return to the state that adored him during his college career, the rookie out of the University of Arizona enjoyed an impressive performance, recording 19 points on 7-10 shooting while snatching 8 rebounds in only 21 minutes. Facing a non-physically imposing team in the Suns gave D-Will advantages in his matchups, and he hit open shots while finishing close to the hoop with great efficiency. It is going to take everyone stepping their games up with Tricky Ricky sidelined, and D-Will is really beginning to elevate his game in the second half of this season.
The other starters tonight, Wes Johnson and Martell Webster, combined for a mere 11 points while getting burned on the defensive end. The inconsistency from the SG and SF positions remains the teams two biggest question marks, and with only two days until the trade deadline it is unclear if the Timberwolves brass will pull the trigger on a trade in attempt to fill one of the team’s areas of need.
Anthony Randolph saw limited action tonight and came out extremely soft, making no positive impact on either end of the court. It was very disappointing watching AR-15 play with no energy or confidence and he looked dazed and confused out on the court. The only way that Randolph is going to see any time throughout the rest of this season is if he takes advantages of opportunities like tonight’s, but unfortunately it appears like he will continue to be one of the last options for the Wolves at F.
It is a little concerning that the Wolves shot 56% as a team but only won tonight by 3 points. Defensively, the Pups were horrendous and All-Star and future Hall of Fame PG Steve Nash manipulated and continually broke down the Wolves defense with veteran acumen. Nash did everything he could have, and despite finishing with 25 points and 10 assists the Suns snapped a nine game winning streak against the Timberwolves.
Despite the defense relapsing back to it’s old ways, the Timberwolves should be very proud of this road win against a team that has had the Wolves number for a long time. However, they face a tough next 6 games on the road and look to build on tonight’s victory in Utah Thursday night.
Key Player: Kevin Love was magnificent down the stretch once again and is now averaging over 32 points per contest in the month of March.
Key Stat: The Timberwolves shot 14-22 (64%) from three-point range and set a season high for three-point field goals made in a game.
Photo Credits: TheSportsBank.net