PHOENIX SUNS

Suns fall down 0-2 to T-Wolves with familiar turnover issues looming in series

Apr 23, 2024, 6:01 PM | Updated: 11:18 pm

Here the Phoenix Suns came again, with all their warts of turnovers and clunky offensive decision-making showing early in Game 2 against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

But through an 8-0 start for the T-Wolves and even with 11 points off five turnovers through the first quarter, the Suns settled in thanks to — of all things — their defense.

It just didn’t last. Or it was just that the turnover issue continued to bleed the Suns of shot attempts and opportunities to set their respectable, if not promising, defense.

Minnesota ended the game with 31 points scored off 19 turnovers in the 105-93 victory that puts Phoenix down in the first-round series, 0-2. Meanwhile, Phoenix scored two points off 13 T-Wolves miscues.

The game remained within single digits one way or the other until the fourth quarter, when like it did in Game 1’s third quarter, the bottom fell out for the Suns.

To some degree, it corresponded with Grayson Allen reinjuring his ankle minutes into the third quarter, when the Suns led by a point.

Phoenix was respectively outscored 28-20 in the third quarter and 27-22 in the fourth.

The T-Wolves led by as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter to close a balanced effort. Jaden McDaniels led Minnesota with 25 points to make up for a 3-for-12 shooting night for star Anthony Edwards.

The Suns got their offense going eventually after the ugly start by successfully hunting mismatches. The sub-40 shooting percentages in the first half finally opened up to more of a tempo for both teams in the second, but Phoenix at least made Minnesota work.

The T-Wolves shot 44.9% but were limited to 9-of-32 shooting from deep by the end of the game.

The Suns didn’t get many looks from beyond the arc, either, yet they went 12-of-15 at the foul line in the first half.

An inkling of successful tweaks for Phoenix started with cutting off the firehose from Game 1 that was Edwards.

On the Suns’ end, Devin Booker got to the foul stripe eight times in the first half, and Phoenix drew three first-quarter fouls on Karl-Anthony Towns to put him on ice.

The Timberwolves fixed their fouling issue — or it was some combination of the Suns losing their aggressiveness. Phoenix took just four free throws in the second half as Minnesota doubled their free-throw count from 15 to 30. It was an accurate depiction of the swing in aggressiveness from the respective teams.

Booker finished with a team-high 02 points but a team-low -24 plus-minus shared with Durant. Booker was culpable for six of the turnovers and fouled out in the fourth quarter.

Phoenix peeled Booker, Kevin Durant and, at times, Bradley Beal off the wings to attack in the heart of the paint. Booker and Beal found enough space to get to the rim or the foul stripe, while Durant found contact and got short mid-range jumpers.

The game-and-a-half of growing friction between Booker and his primary defender, McDaniels, also reared its head in the second quarter, when a brief kerfuffle boiled to the surface.

McDaniels and center Rudy Gobert scored 12 apiece in the first half, and the latter closed with 18. Point guard Mike Conley’s spot-shooting sneakily bit the Suns in important spots as he finished with 18 points.

And unlike Game 1, when the Suns’ bench was outscored 41-18, Phoenix had the advantage on Tuesday.

Eric Gordon’s 15 points and Drew Eubanks’ eight more provided more of a boost than 17 combined points from the T-Wolves’ group of reserves, which didn’t include Kyle Anderson. He didn’t play despite being active with a hip pointer suffered on Saturday.

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