After a cold night shooting in Sacramento on Thursday, the Timberwolves visited the Phoenix Suns with the hopes of warming up in the desert on Friday. With both seasons virtually over, there wasn’t too much excitement in the air, and with the Gophers playing a late game in the NCAA tournament Friday night, you might excuse fans in Minnesota of being distracted from the Wolves. Nevertheless, here is a recap of Friday night’s game.
The Wolves opened up with the same lineup – Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Williams, and Pekovic. The Suns opened up with Goran Dragic, Wes Johnson, Markieff Morris, PJ Tucker, and Luis Scola. Wolves’ fans might notice that the Suns are now starting Wes at the SG position. If you were wondering why the Suns were playing .333 ball that would be part of the answer. Also note that the Suns were without Gortat (probably out for the season, per Suns announcers), O’Neal, and Dudley for Friday’s game.
After a slow first few minutes, the Timberwolves came alive in the 1st quarter, somewhat erasing the memories of Thursday night in Sacramento. Pekovic and Kirilenko led the way and really controlled the paint on both ends of the floor. With about 6.5 minutes left in the quarter, the Wolves were up 13-10. From that point, the Wolves owned the 1st, outscoring the Suns 21-8, taking a 31-18 lead into the 2nd quarter.
While Pups fans might have expected the team to come back to earth a bit, the 2nd quarter looked very similar to the 1st, with the visiting team pouring it on offensively against the Suns. Chase Budinger helped start the quarter off strong, forcing Suns coach Lindsey Hunter to call a timeout within the first minute of the 2nd. Budinger was an early 3-4 from the field and helped increase the Wolves lead to 15+ points. It was off to the races from this point on.
The Suns big men were all in foul trouble – as Scola and Morris were clearly outplayed by the Wolves frontline. At the half, the Wolves held a 67-39 lead. The 67 points from the Wolves are/were the most points the team has scored in a half all season. Here are a couple of halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:
- It is pretty amazing what the Wolves look like when they shoot north of 44%, and they look very formidable when around 50%.
- The Suns are an abysmal team and looked asleep at the wheel. This is what happens when you rely on Beasley and Johnson.
All the Wolves had to do was avoid playing “not to lose” in the second half and they would pull out the victory. That’s exactly what they were able to do. The Suns fans remaining in the stands in the 3rd quarter were treated to an exciting quarter of basketball, even if you could hear crickets through the television. The Suns weren’t able to do much of anything in terms of making a comeback. While outscoring the Wolves 30-28 in the 3rd quarter, it did virtually nothing to make it more of a game. At the end of the quarter, the Wolves held a 26 point advantage and a 95-69 lead.
Even less Suns fans remained for the 4th quarter and those that did deserve a refund from the Sarver family because it was a pathetic effort from the team. After giving up 95 point in three quarters to one of the worst offensive teams in the league, you would think the Suns would have come out in the 4th with a little bit more pride. Again, I guess it shouldn’t have been expected when you are led by those two ex-Timberwolves. Anyone that wishes either of those two were still on the team doesn’t understand the locker room impact on a team and/or that some players just don’t have what it takes internally to ‘turn it on’.
The Wolves outscored the Suns 22-17 in the 4th quarter and coasted to a very easy 117-86 victory. Friday’s game was exactly what the Wolves players (and fans) needed; a victory that was never in doubt in the 2nd half. Adelman had the ability to limit the minutes of many of his starters, particularly Pekovic, Kirilenko, and Williams’. In fact, he was able to limit the minutes of everyone on the end of a back to back, and were afforded to do so because the reserves also outplayed anyone the Suns put on the floor.
Keys of the Game
- Free Throws – The Wolves were 15-21 from the FT line in the 1st half, while the Suns were only 4-8. That trend continued into the 2nd half as the Wolves finished 31-40 on the game. Conversely, the Suns (and their lack of heart/effort) finished the game 10-21 from the line. Again, just a pathetic effort all around from Phoenix.
- Whistles – A deep correlation to FT’s but worth calling out separately, as the Suns big men were in foul trouble all night and couldn’t contain Minnesota’s frontline – both the starters and reserves. The Suns were whistled for 29 personal fouls in the game vs. just 18 for the Wolves – which includes Stiemsma’s 5 PF’s.
- Shooting – The Wolves shot 58% from the field in the 1st half to blow the game open and stayed above the 50% line throughout, finishing 42-79 for 53% on the night. While the three point shooting woes continued (2-12), the team limited the total number attempted … as they should through the remainder of the season.
Three Stars of the Game
- Greg Stiemsma – I’m going to go with Stiemsma as the #1 start due to the big minutes he played, but also because his contributions made a big impact in building the Wolves lead in the 1st half. Greg finished 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks in a game high 34+ minutes.
- Andrei Kirilenko – Friday night felt like the return of the “real” (or at least desired) Kirilenko. He was active on both ends of the floor and was a main cog in the machine that helped drive the huge advantage for the Wolves on the scoreboard. Andrei finished with 20 points and 7 rebounds, including getting to the line 10 times on the evening.
- Ricky Rubio – Again, I’m going with guys that played heavier minutes in the 1st half to drive home the advantage over someone like Dante Cunningham, who played great Friday night, but it was in excessive garbage time in my opinion. (There is nothing wrong with that by the way.) Rubio finished the game with 12 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and 5 steals. By the way, he’s awesome!