The Minnesota Timberwolves dropped their fifth game in a row and finished their road trip winless after falling to the Phoenix Suns.
Both players returned on Monday in Phoenix, and the Suns took advantage of contributions from each of them as they pulled away down the stretch to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves for the second time this season.
While the Wolves were playing the back-end of a road back-to-back and the third road game in four nights, it was nonetheless a deflating loss. It was close for much of the game but things began to spiral late in the third quarter and entirely got away late in the fourth.
A night after Anthony Davis and LeBron James went off on the Wolves, transition defense was once again an issue for Minnesota. Rebounding was a problem as well, as the Suns pulled down 12 offensive boards and were leading in overall rebounding for much of the game.
Second-chance points and sloppy turnovers by the Wolves led to too many easy buckets for Phoenix. Rubio sliced and diced the Wolves with his third consecutive game with 13 or more assists, and his final line of 16 points, 14 assists, and four rebounds is exactly the sort of box score mark that the Wolves would welcome out of their point guard.
Alas, the Wolves’ struggles continued, and after Phoenix built a double-digit lead late in the third quarter, they led by nine heading into the fourth. With Karl-Anthony Towns on the bench, the Suns stretched it to 12 before Towns reentered with about eight minutes to go, but Minnesota could never draw any closer.
KARL-ANTHONY TOWNSCenter, Minnesota Timberwolves
ANDREW WIGGINSWing, Minnesota Timberwolves
ROBERT COVINGTONForward, Minnesota Timberwolves
JARRETT CULVERGuard, Minnesota Timberwolves
JOSH OKOGIEGuard/Forward, Minnesota Timberwolves
JEFF TEAGUEPoint Guard, Minnesota Timberwolves
Strangely, the Wolves’ frontcourt rotation was a bit of a roller coaster. Jordan Bell had a strong five-minute stint in the first half and probably should have seen the floor in the second half. Keita Bates-Diop was underutilized, playing 23 minutes but only getting up four shots and not scoring at all until garbage time. He did not attempt a 3-pointer.
Shabazz Napier had an up-and-down night, scoring seven points on 3-of-5 shooting but turning the ball over five times. The experiment alongside Teague in the backcourt has not been going well, to say the least.
Treveon Graham has played better of late in a more limited role. He played 12 minutes in this one, scoring four points and grabbing one rebound. Gorgui Dieng had four points and two rebounds in 12 minutes.
The Wolves return home to lick their wounds before hosting the Utah Jazz on Wednesday evening.