Suns Strokes: Suns unable to pull off comeback, fall to Timberwolves
PHOENIX, Ariz. — With two days before Christmas, the Phoenix Suns were in a giving mood, which on the basketball court is not a good thing.
Then again, that’s how they’ve been playing recently. Falling behind by double-digits yet battling back for the win.
Not on this night.
A 22-point second-quarter deficit was too much to overcome and the Minnesota Timberwolves hung on for a 115-106 victory in front of an announced crowd of 16,482 at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Saturday.
After a poor first half, the Suns woke up and played better in the second half, including a season-best 37-point third quarter that saw T.J. Warren score 12 points, including an eight-foot driving bank shot that made it 82-80.
The Suns (12-23) would get no closer.
Warren finished with a team-high 24 points to go along with nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and one blocked shot in 39 minutes.
The loss was the Suns’ second in three games.
Six T-Wolves players scored in double figures, led by Jimmy Butler who had 32 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the field and 12-of-13 from the foul line.
Karl-Anthony Towns recorded a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds.
The T-Wolves have won three straight and at 20-13 are off to their best start since 2003-04.
Though he didn’t make a shot, Isaiah Canaan accounted for 12 of the Suns’ 24 first-quarter points. He went 3-of-3 from the foul line and recorded four assists, including setting up Troy Daniels for a 3. With Canaan running the offense, the Suns outscored the T-Wolves 18-11 over the final 3:56 of the period. Bender had five points and Len four.
Coming out of the locker room, the Suns looked like a completely different team. They scored on their first six and 11 of their first 13 possessions for what was a 22-6 run to trim a 21-point deficit to five. Warren scored 10 points including a fastbreak layup that made it 70-65 at the 5:25 mark. Warren finished with 12 points in the period.
Despite the loss, the Suns’ bench outscored the Minnesota reserves 51-29. Daniels (18 points) made six 3s—his third game with 6+ 3-pointers off the bench this season, second-most in the NBA—while Canaan (15) had a career-high nine assists with one turnover in 30 minutes. Over the last five games, the Suns second-unit is averaging 51.4 points per game.
It was a slow start for the Suns. Very slow. They didn’t record their first made field goal until the 6:50 mark of the first quarter, a Chriss driving finger roll layup. Prior to that play, the Suns missed eight straight shot attempts, including four misses by Warren. Meanwhile, the T-Wolves raced out to a 16-point lead (22-6) with Butler scoring 10 straight points, six from the foul line.
The slow start was not limited to the first quarter. The second quarter began with the Suns missing six straight shot attempts and turning the ball over five times. Their first made field goal was at the 7:16 mark, a Tyler Ulis 10-foot driving floater. Meanwhile, the T-Wolves increased their lead to 21 (45-24) with a 12-0 run, which saw Tyus Jones twice score on fastbreak layups.
Fouled on an 11-foot pullup jump shot—the free throw good for a three-point play—a nine-foot turnaround jumper and a dunk. Butler scored seven of the T-Wolves nine points over a 93-second stretch in the third quarter that pushed the visitor’s lead to 12 (79-67) after the Suns had pulled to within five. Butler finished the period with eight points, giving him 20 for the game.
STAT OF THE GAME
64-43: The Suns trailed by 21 points at halftime, and though they outscored the T-Wolves in the second half 63-51, they had fallen behind by too much
HE SAID IT
“I thought the first half, their isos, they went at us one-on-one and we got embarrassed and I think that probably kicked in,” interim head coach Jay Triano said, referring to the difference between the first and second half. “They didn’t do anything strategic other than give it to their all-star players and say go one-on-one, and we’re going to struggle with that for a little bit, but I didn’t think we put up a lot of fight. We addressed it at halftime and we played better in the second half, but we dug too big of hole.”
Marquese Chriss (12 points) had his seventh double-digit scoring game of the year
Josh Jackson (11 points) had his fourth game with 10+ points in his last five games
Suns missed nine free throw attempts with Chriss and Jackson a combined 5-of-12
At halftime, the Suns had committed more turnovers (10) than they had assists (9)
At halftime, Tyson Chandler had nine of the Suns’ 14 rebounds; he finished with 15
Devin Booker (left adductor strain) was active but recorded a DNP-Coach’s Decision
Brandon Knight, Davon Reed and Alan Williams were all listed inactive due to injury
The three-game homestand ends with another matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies, the second in six days.
The teams will meet on Tuesday, Dec. 26. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station.
The Suns snapped a four-game losing streak in the series, pulling out a 97-95 win with a go-ahead 3-pointer by former Grizzly Troy Daniels on Dec. 21. Daniels finished with 14 points off the bench.
The Grizzlies missed their final 10 field goal attempts, including two chances to tie after Daniels’ shot and a final 3-point try by Tyreke Evans to win it at the buzzer.
Overall, the Suns have won just nine of the last 28 games against Memphis.
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