This was a fun one. We need these, every now and again. I suspect we’ll have a few more tilts like this in the near future, with an easy schedule and (hopefully) a steady trickle of healthy bodies. Of course, the Phoenix Suns are in a pretty sorry state, especially playing without a couple of their best players in Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley. But we’ll take it. And so will Coach Rick Adelman.
There was not much more to this game besides the fact that the Suns simply are not a good basketball team. They took bad, contested shots, missed open shots, and threw the ball out of bounds with reckless abandon. It almost looked like last year’s version of the Timberwolves. There were even a couple of guys that looked a lot like Wes Johnson and Michael Beasley that took part in the festivities as a part of the rag-tag home team. Lucky us, poor them.
The Wolves’ offense was solid early, with good movement and activity and solid passing in the open floor. It was almost as we had all envisioned it, at least for those brief moments when Ricky Rubio, Andrei Kirilenko, Nikola Pekovic, and a recovering Chase Budinger shared the court at the same time. It is easy to see how potent and versatile this team could/would/should be with a relatively healthy roster.
The Wolves held a 31-18 lead headed into the second quarter after outplaying the Suns in every facet of the first frame. Budinger hit a three-pointer, snagged a defensive rebound, and hit a two-point baseline jumper off the dribble in rapid succession to put the Wolves up 36-18 shortly after the second period began. Adelman called Budinger’s number out of a timeout in his favorite set, getting Chase an open jumper curling around a screen at the elbow, and Budinger was 3 for 3 to start the quarter, putting the visitors up by 20 points.
The Suns only got sloppier, throwing the ball around carelessly and allowing the Wolves to have their way offensively. Minnesota benefited from some easy Suns’ misses as they expanded their lead, eventually scoring a season-high in first half points in taking a 67-39 lead into the break.
The third quarter saw the Suns chip away a little bit as they eventually started making open shots. The Wolves’ defensive intensity waned while their offense remained sharp, and the Wolves retained the majority of their lead as they finished the frame with a 95-69 lead.
The fourth quarter was a charade, as both teams cycled through their short benches and played out the string with minimal intensity. The Wolves built upon their already healthy advantage, eventually coasting to a 117-86 victory in the desert.
Some quick thoughts….
– I enjoyed listening to the Phoenix Suns’ announcers this evening (I think it was Steve Albert and Eddie Johnson, although it is harder to find online than it should be…). They had a few interesting quips, including a discussion about being willing to confront Mike Tyson if Pekovic was one’s bodyguard. Obviously, this would be a no-brainer, but Pek is nobody’s bodyguard. The play-by-play announcer also had this gem in the third quarter: “Even when called for traveling, [Rubio] does it charismatically.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
– Kirilenko started the game with a flurry of points and eventually ended up with a team-high 20 points on 6 of 10 shooting and 8 of 10 from the free throw line.
– Rubio had a solid game, scoring 12 points on 3 of 7 from the field and 6 of 7 from the charity stripe, adding 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and 5 steals with 4 turnovers in 29 minutes. Just think what he’ll do when fully healthy, with Kevin Love, and playing 35-38 minutes per game consistently. I know I bring this up a lot, but….scary stuff.
– Budinger was more than solid in his second night of monitored playing time, shooting 4 of 9 in 16 minutes of court time. He was aggressive at a couple of points going to the rim, and his stroke was confident and true, for the most part.
– The Wolves shot 31-40 from the free throw line. That’s a lot of shots. And for the Wolves, I’ll take that percentage.
– Pekovic saw his old foul trouble problems sneak on him, drawing five personal fouls in just 14 minutes of play. Of course, the game was not close, so it didn’t matter in the least. He did play very well in his limited time, rim-running right through the Suns’ defense for 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting.
– Minnesota will host the Chicago Bulls at Target Center at 6:00 CST on Sunday evening.