Phoenix Suns (14-20) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (18-18)
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Last game: Minnesota: L, 104-85 vs Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix: L, 106-104 vs Golden State
Kevin Love sat out last night’s game against the Lakers with flu-like symptoms, and the rest of the team might as well have sat out too. Kobe Bryant eviscerated Minnesota for 31 points and eight assists, as the Lakers dominated the Wolves in LA. Minnesota’s shooting percentages were awful (39% from the field, 26% from 3), and they fell back to .500, staying a game out of eighth in the West.
The Suns haven’t played a basketball game since last week Wednesday, when they lost a heartbreaker to the Warriors. Battling back from a 20+ point first half deficit, Phoenix tied the game with 17 seconds left in the fourth before Monta Ellis drained a tough fadeaway with one second left that proved to be the difference. Markieff Morris took part in the Rising Stars Challenge (and completed a really nice play from Rubio), and Steve Nash was an All-Star, but no other Suns player has participated in basketball activities since Golden State.
The Key Questions
#1. How rusty will the Suns be?
If the Suns begin the game cold, Minnesota may get an opportunity to avoid their customary bad start. This would be big for the Wolves. On the third night of a back to back to back, Minnesota would definitely benefit from an early lead. Battling back from a deficit would feel like a steep uphill battle.
On the plus side, after missing last night’s game and Tuesday night’s fourth quarter, Kevin Love should be quite fresh.
#2. What’s wrong with Rubio’s shot?
Rubio has been awful shooting the ball over the past four games, going 9-39, which is 23% for those of you who like seeing misery spelled out. Earlier this season, Rubio seemed less tentative looking for his shot. After he misses a shot or two, he passes on good shots, realizes his mistake, and forces up a bad one. This is likely just an aberration, however. His numbers will likely trend upward soon.
#3. Where do the Wolves stand in playoff race?
Minnesota trails Portland by half a game and Denver by a full one. Denver is inactive tonight, but Portland will have their hands full against Miami. A win against Phoenix and a loss by Portland to the Heat would vault Minnesota into the 9th spot in the West, just a half game behind Denver.
The Key Matchups
Well, folks. Here it is. You’ve been comparing Rubio to Steve Nash since we saw his first behind the back pass. The head to head is finally here. For the record, I think that Nash comparisons are a little ridiculous. Yeah, Rubio is floppy haired, flashy foreign import. But Nash is a dead-eye shooter, whereas Rubio…well.
Channing Frye’s numbers are down from last year, but matched up against Kevin Love, his performance will be interesting. Love has neither the length nor the athleticism to defend Frye if he gets hot, but Frye is also a minus defender, so Love could have an advantage offensively.
But let’s be real here. You and I are most looking forward to Marcin Gortat vs Nikola Pekovic. The Polish Hammer vs The Pek-secutioner. It. Is. So. On.
The Wolves HAVE to be exhausted, after two grueling, difficult games against LA teams. The Suns, after shaking off their initial rust, will be healthy and energetic. I’m not saying Minnesota doesn’t have a shot, but I AM saying that expecting a win is probably unreasonable.
Game starts at 8 on Fox Sports North