DAN BICKLEY

Suns’ psychological edge vanished with Game 1 Timberwolves win

Apr 20, 2024, 4:05 PM | Updated: Apr 21, 2024, 8:14 am

The Suns lost more than a basketball game on Saturday. They lost their edge and their psychological advantage.

They proved yet again how irrelevant regular season basketball seems in mid-April.

The Timberwolves finally bit back in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals, smothering the Suns in a 120-95 victory in Minnesota. It’s only one game, but the tone of the series has changed dramatically.

The Suns dominated the Timberwolves during three previous meetings. The games were so lopsided that the Suns were popular favorites to win the series, even though the Timberwolves held home-court advantage and one of the best records in the Western Conference.

Alas, very little translated to the postseason.

The Timberwolves flipped the script because Anthony Edwards (33 points) finally went nuclear against the Suns. He was the best player on the court by a longshot, and his 18 third-quarter points unleveled the playing field. Edwards blew up the game and the narrative that he cannot beat Bradley Beal or Devin Booker.

The Timberwolves dominated off the bench, on the glass, in the paint, and on second-chance points. Unfortunately, their hunger was not matched by the visitors.

Kevin Durant paced the Suns with great scoring, aggression and energy. The 35-year-old superstar was coming off his worst month of the season and was clearly rejuvenated by five full days of rest. But Booker was put in jail by the Timberwolves’ vaunted defense, starting with Jaden McDaniels and Nickeil Alexander-Walker; Grayson Allen left the game after twisting an ankle; Eric Gordon was ice cold in his stead; and the Suns reverted to bad habits, careless passing and unforced errors.

Game over.

Booker scored 18 points. He made five field goals in 18 attempts. If he is going to become a true legend of the NBA — if he’s going to be our hero and our savior in Arizona — he needs to ascend during the postseason, not vanish. At this stage in his career, he must be better.

If the Suns win on Tuesday, they will regain control of this series. But they had a chance to climb deep inside their opponent’s psyche on Saturday and failed. They relinquished more than momentum in a sloppy, underwhelming Game 1 performance.

They gave the Timberwolves affirmation and hope. They gave a good team reason to believe.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on Arizona Sports.

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