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Suns Strokes: Phoenix pulls away from Timberwolves in second half, wins by double digits
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Suns Strokes: Phoenix pulls away from Timberwolves in second half, wins by double digits

For whatever reason, the Phoenix Suns, at times, like to make things hard on themselves.

Friday was one of those times.

Hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves, the worst team in the Western Conference, the Suns used a late third quarter run to pull away and win 110-99 in front of 17,441 at US Airways Center.

Goran Dragic led six Suns in double figures with 21 points. Gerald Green added 19 off the bench as the Suns (24-18) won their second in a row and fifth straight at home, extending a season-long streak.

They are 2-0 so far on their franchise-record eight-game homestand.

Leading 76-72 with 3:33 remaining in the third quarter, the Suns went on a 10-1 run to take control of the game and keep the Timberwolves (6-32) at arm’s length the rest of the way. Miles Plumlee and Marcus Morris each scored four points during the the run. The two were part of a bench brigade that outscored their counterparts, 52-24.

Dragic shot 10-of-17 and also had a game-high eight assists and five rebounds. He’s scored in double digits in 22 of his last 23 games and recorded his 13th 20-point performance of the season, tied with Eric Bledsoe for the most 20-point games by a Sun this season.

Green hit two of the Suns five 3s, making eight-of-14 shots in 24 minutes. He failed to score in seven-and-a-half minutes against Cleveland on Tuesday.

The Suns improved to 12-4 in their last 16 games.

THE GOOD

The Suns rode the hot hand three different times in the first quarter. Alex Len scored six of the team’s first eight points, Dragic then ran off 11-of-13 before Markieff Morris tallied nine unanswered, including a one-handed slam for a 30-22 lead at 2:20. Dragic finished the quarter with 13 points on six-of-nine shooting.

Bledsoe and Green each scored seven points in the second quarter. All of Bledsoe’s points came in an 84-second stretch in which he made a layup, 16-foot jump shot and three free throws. Green, meanwhile, scattered his points, the final three of which were scored on an and-1 alley oop layup to give the Suns their largest lead of the half, 57-48, at 3:31.

For the second straight game Plumlee’s first in-game appearance didn’t come until the third quarter. He checked in for Len at 6:19 and made an immediate impact. First there was a steal, then a rebound and finally six straight points in 1:41: a reverse layup, a 14-foot turnaround jump shot and an alley oop dunk.

Green heated up again in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 points including back-to-back 3s. His layup at 6:00 put the Suns up 16, matching their largest lead of the game, 104-86. Green had just nine combined points the previous two games.

Len continued his dominance on the glass, grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds, the fourth straight game in which he’s had double digit rebounds. It marks the first time a Suns player has recorded four straight double digit rebounding performances since Marcin Gortat did so in four straight from Nov. 2-7, 2012.

Bledsoe’s 16 points, including a perfect seven-of-seven from the free throw line, extended his career-long streak of consecutive games scoring in double digits to 19 games.

THE BAD

Three days after scoring a career-high and franchise-record 52 points, Mo Williams continued his hot shooting with 11 points in the first quarter, including three 3s. His 3 to open the game began a run of eight consecutive makes by the Timberwolves, which twice led by as many as three points in the first quarter.

The Suns closed the second quarter missing five of six shots with five turnovers in the final three minutes, allowing the Timberwolves to cut a nine-point deficit to three at halftime, 59-56. Markieff Morris had two of the turnovers, both from bad passes.

After turning the ball over six times in the second quarter, the Suns committed five giveaways in the third. The mistakes did not cost them as the Timberwolves scored only nine points off the 11 turnovers. The Suns finished with 16 total turnovers.

The league’s No. 2 ranked team in fast-break points at 19.1 per game, the Suns had only eight against the Timberwolves, their third-lowest total of the season.

Williams finished with a game-high 26 points, giving him at least 20 points in consecutive games for just the second time this season (Nov. 28-30).

STAT OF THE GAME

55.2: The shooting percentage of the Suns, who improved to 33-1 over the last two seasons when shooting at least 50 percent from the field

HE SAID IT

“They haven’t won a lot of games, but they are a bunch of young guys who are out to try and prove themselves and they’re not going to quit,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said of the Timberwolves. “They just keep playing, but we finally got some stops and Gerald hit a couple of 3s there and kicked (the lead) back up there. We would’ve liked to maybe have done it earlier, but we got a lot of guys in tonight, which is good.”

NOTED

Rookie T.J. Warren saw his first action in 12 days, scoring two points in five second-quarter minutes

Suns fan Sean Clair of Glendale won $5,000 for making a free throw, 3-pointer and half-court shot in under 24 seconds as part of the CenturyLink Prism Shot Challenge

Former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, recently named New York Jets head coach, was courtside, sitting with Cardinals defensive line coach Brentson Buckner

Following a series of trades that saw Reggie Bullock and Brandan Wright replace Shavlik Randolph and Anthony Tolliver, the average age of the Suns’ current 15-man roster is 24 years, 10 months and nine days, seven months younger than the opening night roster

UP NEXT

The homestand continues with a visit by the L.A. Lakers on Monday, Jan. 19. Tip off is scheduled for 8 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

The Suns have won the first three meetings and they will be going for their first sweep in the series since 2004-05.

Most recently, Dragic scored a game-high 24 points to lead five players in double figures in a 116-107 win at Staples Center on Dec. 28.

The Suns have won seven straight home games against the Lakers.