EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

It’s time: Suns locate spark, Bradley Beal lifts team to playoffs vs. Timberwolves

Apr 14, 2024, 3:40 PM

Bradley Beal #3 of the Phoenix Suns celebrates his basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the...

Bradley Beal #3 of the Phoenix Suns celebrates his basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second quarter at Target Center on April 14, 2024 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

(Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

Whether it is due to a favorable matchup, a shock to the system via Bradley Beal, or a little bit of both, the Phoenix Suns found what they needed on the last day of the regular season Sunday in a 125-106 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves to make the playoffs.

A New Orleans Pelicans blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers allowed Phoenix to jump to the sixth seed, where it draws a Timberwolves squad in the first round it has more or less dominated this season with a 3-0 record.

That trend on Sunday continued inside a 44-point first quarter, the Suns’ best opening dozen minutes this year. They once again forced Minnesota to look completely clueless with the ball, creating 15 turnovers in the first 18 minutes of the game. Phoenix has been one of the worst teams in the league at forcing giveaways, but when it can do that, it elevates the offense to pick up the juice in a way the flow sorely needs.

Beal’s phenomenal effort on Friday in a close win over the Sacramento Kings persisted on Sunday. After two losses earlier in the week to the Los Angeles Clippers represented a Suns team that looked like it was mentally disconnecting for the rest of the year, Beal has emerged as the emotional leader of the team when external conversations were at an all-time high questioning the locker room dynamics at hand. He scored 36 points in Minnesota on 14-of-21 shooting, 16 of which came in the first quarter. Beal added six rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block.

The closest the Timberwolves would get was in the third quarter when Jusuf Nurkic’s fourth foul let Minnesota’s Rudy Gobert take advantage of a bonus situation with 15 of his 21 points. The T-Wolves cut down a 24-point deficit to 11 entering the fourth quarter before a response led by Beal scoring or assisting 20 of the Suns’ first 22 points in the final frame closed the show out.

Despite the Suns not having a prototypical wing stopper to contain a multi-dimensional guard like Anthony Edwards, the 22-year-old All-Star put up his third straight dud against them. He was 3-of-7 for 13 points with six rebounds, four assists, a steal, a block and five turnovers. Edwards shot 13-for-42 (31%) in the three meetings. Karl-Anthony Towns was in his second game back after tearing his meniscus and was mercilessly hunted by Phoenix defensively. Towns was not able to make up for that offensively with 3-of-8 shooting for 10 points with two assists and five turnovers.

Grayson Allen has bounced back after a one-game move to the bench. He followed up 19 points on Friday with 20 on Sunday, knocking down a few huge shots in the fourth quarter.

Phoenix was in full control of this game despite Devin Booker (6-for-16) and Kevin Durant (6-for-14) not having their normal efficient nights. That’s because it was able to rely on the turnovers, a star effort from Beal and a 16-of-29 (55.2%) shooting afternoon from deep. Once again, that is the Suns’ winning formula. Solid defense, great shooting and a member of the Big 3 going off can take them far in mid-April and beyond.

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