Here’s the thing about the Phoenix Suns. They’re like that person who shows up to a dinner at a restaurant that the hosts setup with a reservation ahead of the time. Because there is not enough room for this unexpected guest, the restaurant has to may have to pull up a chair or move a couple of tables around to accommodate the extra person. Of course, this is a metaphor (or something) for the Western Conference, and the Western Conference is crowded so therefore this figurative restaurant is also crowded and this makes everyone uncomfortable. Plain and simple: they don’t belong, but they are here and we have to deal with it.
Don’t get me wrong; the Suns are good. They are also exactly the team that you don’t want to run into coming off of a blowout of a bad team. In the same way you want to have a short memory with a bad loss, it’s helpful to have a short memory with a big win.
The Timberwolves roared out to an early 11-2 lead behind six Kevin Martin points. The Suns saw this and thought this was a terrific idea like that person at the restaurant who orders the same thing as you by going on an 11-2 run of their own. Thanks to Channing Frye, the Suns managed to escape with a modest four-point lead at the end of one.
In the second quarter, Chase Budinger, making his season debut, scored five points, but it was Phoenix’s 12-3 run at the end of the half that would give them the 53-47 advantage.
It was in the third quarter that the Timberwolves continued to do the two things they were successful at in the first half — getting to the line and making threes — and were able to use that to carry them to a lead at the end of the third and eventually a late game lead.
Are you wondering why I skipped over a quarter’s worth of game? Because something happened, again, and I think we need to talk about it. I talked about it on Hardwood Paroxysm over the weekend while the site was down, but I’m willing to open up the conversation again.
Over the course of the game’s final 2: 45 the Suns managed to outscore the Timberwolves 8-1 to seal the game, including a Gerald Green baseline jumper that made you go, “YEAHOKAYWHATEVERGERALDGREENIFYOU’REGOINGTOHITTHAT…” It was tough, a little hard to stomach, but this is not the end of the world. Most of the Timberwolves’ issues are fixable, and while they do have time on their side, the sooner they get fixed the better.
For example, Corey Brewer’s foul on Gerald Green’s jumper with about 2:34 to go. On this play Brewer runs up behind Green as he’s about to release and catches him on the wrist. Why commit that foul then and there? It made no sense and eventually led to two made free throws by Green.
When the Timberwolves would try and run an offense the defense would sag off of Ricky Rubio, jamming the passing lanes and making it more difficult to get into their offense. This led to a rushed Kevin Love turnaround baseline jumper, a bobbled entry pass to Nikola Pekovic and Rubio eventually throwing a pass that was interception right under the basket and eventually helped the Suns seal the game. Even Kevin Martin got a chance to win it with his 10-footer at the end of the game, but it missed and the rest is now history.
Tonight was frustrating, no doubt. However, there is still plenty of time to turn things around being just 34 games into the season. Being in the Western Conference, these games are important so there does need to be a sense of urgency, but their 0-whatever record in late-game situations could wind up not mattering at all come April. The Timberwolves are one game under .500, not 15 games under. Nobody is guaranteed a playoff spot and the Timberwolves are no exception and will have to resolve their issues before it is actually too late.
Tonight is one of those games where you will need a short memory as a team (Probably a fan, too) since the last thing you want to do is compound your problems by letting it take another game from you. It’s not like I’m going to sit here and tell you that tonight wasn’t a disaster of an ending because it was, but that doesn’t automatically make it a predictor of latter season success. The Timberwolves will turn around to do it again against the improved Bobcats on Friday and if they can’t leave this game behind then they will have bigger problems than this.
– Love finished with 15 and 12, but on 4-20 shooting and five fouls. Pekovic added 17-12 and Rubio finished with 7-8-8.
– For the Suns, Goran Dragic led the way with 26-8-9 and Channing Frye chipped in 22 points off of five three pointers.
– Both teams finished with 12 turnovers, but the Suns scored 18 off of turnovers to the Timberwolves’ 13. Though the Timberwolves won the points in the battle (42-28) and had twelve more free throw attempts than the Suns tonight. Yeah, they should have won, but late game execution and all…