EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Phoenix Suns’ offense explodes for season-best night vs. Timberwolves

Jan 28, 2022, 11:41 PM | Updated: Jan 30, 2022, 7:05 pm

PHOENIX — It’s open for discussion but Friday night’s 134-124 Phoenix Suns win over the Minnesota Timberwolves has to be the frontrunner for the team’s best offensive performance of the season thus far.

“On a night where you have to generate offense and your defense isn’t at the level you want it to be across the meat of the game, you gotta score, and we knocked down shots tonight for sure,” head coach Monty Williams said. “And then when we needed to get stops, we did.”

Missing seven players due to injury against one of the best defenses in the league, the Suns tied their season-highs of 3-point field goals with 20 and an assist mark of 36.

This was not just a masterclass from Chris Paul and Devin Booker. The Suns have been bordering on relying on those outings the last couple of weeks, undoubtedly being carried by those two through a winning streak that has now reached nine games.

Seven of Phoenix’s nine active players made a big-time impact to all be in double figures.

“We hadn’t seen that in a while. That kind of balance, I mean, look at the assists,” Williams said. “Usually, when we have a number of guys in double figures, the assist numbers are higher.”

And it came on a night with seven guys out: Deandre Ayton (ankle), Jae Crowder (wrist), Frank Kaminsky (knee), JaVale McGee (knee), Abdel Nader (knee), Cam Payne (wrist) and Dario Saric (knee).

Landry Shamet had his best game of the season, a timely one after he had just 12 points in his last five games. He more than outdid that on Friday with 17, plus four rebounds and a season-high-tying five assists.

Cam Johnson had 18 of his 23 points in the second half, contributing five rebounds, four assists and two steals as well. Johnson’s five three-pointers and Shamet’s four accounted for nearly half of those 20 deep balls.

The Suns scored a season-high 74 points in the first half and just kept it moving through a strong effort by Minnesota, especially when you tack on the fact that it had played in San Francisco against the Golden State Warriors the night before.

The Timberwolves remained within striking distance all half and then played their best defense of the night in the opening stretches of the third quarter to hold Phoenix to 14 points in the first 8:09 of the period.

That allowed Minnesota to get within two, but then a 12-2 run in under two minutes that all came from Jalen Smith and Shamet got the Suns back ahead by a dozen.

The Timberwolves continued to hang around in the fourth quarter but could not produce enough stops to create any real drama. Johnson racked up 13 points in the quarter. That included two straight possessions in the mid-fourth when he hit a 3, and then Shamet the next time down also drained a 3, which left Minnesota down 11 with 5:26 left and chasing the game from there.

“That stretch where we just kept moving the ball,” Paul said of the critical sequence. “Felt like it found Cam Johnson, found Sham one time — just everybody. Our ball movement is something that’s contagious.”

Booker (2) and Paul (6) combined for only eight points in a fourth quarter, but the Suns produced 34. Booker ended the night with 29 points and nine assists while Paul had his 18th career triple-double — 21 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists.

Mikal Bridges (18), Bismack Biyombo (14 points), Smith (10) were the three other Suns that reached double figures.

Phoenix countered an aggressive, athletic and long Timberwolves defense by matching their physicality and getting to the foul line, where they shot a season-high 37 free throws and made 28.

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