Feb. 24, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic (1) talks with NBA official Pat Fraher about a call in the second half while playing the San Antonio Spurs at US Airways Center. The Spurs defeated the Suns 97-87. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Suns Squeak Out Ugly Overtime Win Over Timberwolves

Man. It does not get much uglier than what just occurred. Honestly. And I’m not just talking about the Timberwolves. This one was rough all the way around, and both Phoenix and Minnesota are to blame. I usually make fun of college basketball, but after the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ upset over the #1 -ranked Indiana Hoosiers….well, that game was infinitely more watchable than this debacle. Just terrible basketball all the way around.

The Wolves turned the ball over four times in the opening three minutes, but they managed to hold an 11-10 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the quarter. Nikola Pekovic struggled with Marcin Gortat’s length down low, but held his own on the defensive end. When unable to get the ball to Gortat in the post, the Suns tend to panic and their offense becomes non-existent. As soon as Pekovic asserted himself physically against Gortat, the Phoenix offense ground to a halt.

Of course, the Wolves refused to put anything together offensively themselves, and ended the second quarter trailing by the score of 16-15. The Suns’ bench went on a 9-0 run and opened up a 24-15 lead while the Wolves started the second quarter 0 for 7 from the field. To make matters worse, the Wolves struggled mightily in creating offense without Rubio on the court, and Andrei Kirilenko left the game with a left calf strain, taking with him the rest of the Wolves’ play-making ability.

Midway through the second quarter, the Wolves were shooting 2 of 14 from the field for the frame and 28% for the game. Derrick Williams continued to play with impressive energy on both ends of the court, but also refused to convert from the free throw line, finishing 3 of 10 from the charity stripe for the game. The Wolves trailed by as many as 18 points in the second period, but managed to whittle the deficit down to 45-33 by the break.

The third quarter was as equally unwatchable as the first half of the tilt, as neither team seemed to be able to comprehend how to run an offense, much less convert the few open shots that they managed to take. The Wolves actually pulled within 55-51 with just under two minutes remaining in the frame, but a terrible possession led to an open three-point shot that was converted by the Suns, and the quarter ended with a 58-51 lead for the home team.

For as bad as the Wolves’ offense was all game long, the Suns only managed to score 11 points in the third quarter, and the Wolves  found themselves within 7 points at 58-51. Not long into the fourth quarter, the Wolves switched into a zone defense and confused the putrid Suns’ offense even further. With the scoring pace slowed even further, the Wolves managed to slowly close the gap to 75-73 with just under two minutes remaining.

Per usual, Dante Cunningham played fantastic defense down the stretch and forced a turnover before running straight to the rim and converting a three-point play via a J.J. Barea pass in transition, giving the Wolves a 76-75 lead with a minute and a half remaining. After a Suns’ turnover, Barea got an offensive rebound with 25.5 seconds remaining. After a Wolves’ timeout, Rubio was fouled before converting just one of two free throws at the line. My question: why didn’t Barea just hold the ball and allow himself to be fouled? Why did he call timeout, leading to Rubio shooting free throws instead of himself? A clear mistake, in my opinion.

The Suns ran an impressive pick-and-roll with an added wrinkle while down two with under thirty seconds left in regulation. Dragic dribbled left around a Gortat screen, and while Gortat rolled, Luis Scola set a back-screen on the Wolves’ defense that was trying to catch up with the Suns’ center heading to the hoop. Gortat converted on a runner, and the Suns’ knotted the game up with 13.6 seconds remaining. Rubio air-balled a long jumper at the end of regulation, and with no mercy for the spectators, the game headed into an extra session.

The Suns jumped out to a lead in overtime, eventually taking an 84-80 lead with 45 seconds left in overtime. After Alexey Shved bricked a baseline floater that got stuck between the rim and the backboard, Pekovic and Gortat competed for a jump ball at center court. Pekovic won, and Williams canned a three-pointer from the right wing to bring the Wolves to within a point with 30 seconds remaining.

The Suns’ Wes Johnson finally looked exactly like the good ol’ Wes that Wolves’ fans remember and threw up a wild baseline shot that was blocked by Pekovic. After a 20-second timeout, Shved dribbled right and got around Johnson before missing a point-blank layup, leading to a Suns’ rebound and an intentionally missed free throw to end the game.

Some thoughts….

– So ugly. One of the worst games I have ever seen, making me long for college basketball. And that is not normal.

– The Suns won this game while committing 20 turnovers. The Wolves turned the ball over 16 times while shooting just 34.4% from the field, compared to the Suns’ 40.7%.

– Wes Johnson may have scored 14 points and pulled down 9 rebounds, but he shot 6 of 16 from the field and had a few boneheaded attempts in the fourth quarter and overtime. As a Wolves fan, I don’t miss him.

– Rubio played as bad as he has since before the All-Star break, shooting 2 of 12 from the field and finishing with a line of 5 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, and 6 turnovers in 39 minutes before being benched midway through overtime, possibly due to a high number of minutes, but more likely due to his poor play.

– The Wolves will be in Los Angeles to take on the Lakers on Thursday night. Tip-off is at 9:30 CST on TNT.


Tags: Goran Dragic Luis Scola Marcin Gortat Minnesota Timberwolves Phoenix Suns Ricky Rubio

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