Suns grind out 9th straight victory in ugly game against Timberwolves
“I said, ‘We don’t have to explain it, we’ll just take it.'”
Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams said his group will watch back the film of Monday’s 99-96 road win over the Minnesota Timberwolves and get better from it as always, but he also said that quote above to his locker room after it, which summed the whole thing up.
It was an ugly, brutal basketball game that maintained those characteristics through each side not creating much separation.
While both teams defended well, neither shot above 37%. Each had at least 15 turnovers and the two combined for 51 fouls and 63 free throw attempts across the 48 minutes.
The Suns posted 40 points in the first half, their lowest mark of the season by seven points, and somehow led by one point at halftime.
It is not wise to look at all those facts of an outing against a bad ball club and highlight this as an undeserving win for the Suns, because they showed up when it mattered. And they did so on the second game of a road back-to-back through a challenging travel schedule of east (Memphis on Friday) to south (Houston on Sunday) to north in Minnesota.
Once the second half got rolling for a few minutes and it became clear that 1) jumpers were going to continue not falling and 2) the refs’ tight whistle remained, Devin Booker willed his team to keep competing.
Booker scored eight of his 11 points in the third quarter at the foul line, ending up with 29 overall on the night at a 13-of-15 mark on free throws.
Through the opening 36 minutes, Phoenix led 66-62 despite shooting a disastrous 8-of-43 (18.6%) on shots not at the rim, per Cleaning the Glass.
The same slog of a game with clank after clank on jumpers continued in the fourth quarter until halfway through the period when shots finally started going in, bringing on a 34-33 Timberwolves (4-9) fourth quarter that did not feel like it was from the same game.
While Minnesota would eventually take some control with a loud crowd and lead by five, the Suns (10-3) were always in a position to win thanks to Chris Paul producing 19 of his 21 points in the final frame and Booker adding another nine.
At the five-point deadlock for Phoenix with 3:40 to go, Paul traded midrange jumpers with Minnesota’s D’Angelo Russell before hitting his second straight. Paul then assisted Booker for his own middy after a smooth cut and dish combination from the starting backcourt to tie the game with 2:05 left.
After more free throw shenanigans killed off 45 seconds and had the Suns down one, Paul was trapped but a crisp ball movement sequence of Paul to Booker to Deandre Ayton under the basket put Phoenix back in the lead.
Russell missed his second straight shot, and then Paul let the Suns get into their offense, which had Booker glide through some off-ball movement around an Ayton screen at the foul line into another midrange jumper, this time for a 3-point edge with 47 seconds remaining.
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This is where a rough game to watch showed its true colors after it looked like we would get a few minutes of good basketball to close.
After a Timberwolves timeout, the inbounds pass was deflected but ended up in the hands of an open Russell from 18 feet with only a few seconds ticked off. But then Russell bizarrely stepped back to the corner into space like had to get a shot off immediately, missing badly. Somehow, the failed attempt found Patrick Beverley for an and-one putback to potentially tie the game with a free throw.
Williams got his clipboard and marker in his hands on the sideline, getting ready to call a timeout as Beverley sank the free throw, only for Beverley to miss and the Timberwolves to grab said miss.
Russell wound up with the ball again, bricked his fourth straight shot and somehow we were at a stage of Paul being fouled up one with 19 seconds left, and Paul made both free throws.
After Russell took the easy two-pointer in Minnesota’s next possession, Booker had the free tosses, but left the door open for a tie or win by failing to convert on one.
With 16 seconds left and no timeouts, Minnesota had the ball in Russell’s hands again, and Booker’s excellent defense forced him into another tough jumper that did not go down with the clock at six seconds.
But Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards wound up with the miss from 16 feet out with space, only for him to inexplicably try to awkwardly take a few steps back for a 3-pointer down two, which led to him losing control of the ball and turning it over so the Suns could finally put an end to that mess.
Ayton played his first game in six after dealing with a right leg contusion and looked good, playing actively with 22 points and 12 rebounds.
He did a great job defending Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns in the post, who ended up with a game-high 35 points.
The Suns have now won nine games in a row, their longest winning streak since 2010.