Minnesota Timberwolves: 3 takeaways from nail-biting loss to Suns

Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns looks on against the Phoenix Suns. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns looks on against the Phoenix Suns. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Karl-Anthony Towns
]Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports /

The NBA’s have-nots can’t afford to waste opportunities to beat the league’s best. That’s exactly what the Minnesota Timberwolves did in their 99-95 loss to the Phoenix Suns Monday night.

Phoenix was on an eight-game winning streak entering the night and ranked second in the Western Conference, but played far from its best game on the second night of a road back-to-back. Minnesota had every opportunity to win a back-and-forth game in which neither team ever led by more than seven points.

When the game gained some flow in an electric fourth quarter, though, Phoenix out-executed Minnesota offensively. There are no moral victories in the NBA, but the Wolves showed progress in their ability to maintain their composure when games get tight.

Ultimately, though, a loss is a loss. Here are three takeaways from the latest defeat.

Chris Paul, Devin Booker win fourth-quarter shootout over Minnesota Timberwolves, Karl-Anthony Towns

Karl-Anthony Towns had a fantastic overall performance but was particularly unstoppable in the fourth quarter when he scored 16 of his 35 points. But while Towns was the Wolves’ big gun, the Suns had two.

Chris Paul and Devin Booker combined for 28 points on 9-of-12 shooting in the final period. Booker scored 20 points in the second half and Paul had 19 in the fourth quarter alone as Phoenix leaned on its star guards to push across the finish line.

For his part, Towns brought energy as well as efficiency when his team needed it the most. He got the Target Center rocking with 13 straight points to take the lead midway through the quarter, capped by a deep three and a primal scream.

“It was good to see him back in a rhythm,” Finch said on Wolves Live Postgame. “He made big plays all throughout the game, and that’s kind of more of what we expect from him and need from him.”

But Minnesota’s other stars couldn’t provide Towns with enough assistance down the stretch. Both Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell had more failures than successes in the clutch, as exemplified by the final minute. During that time, Russell missed three good looks from behind the arc that would have taken the lead, and while Edwards rebounded the miss, the ball slipped through his fingers and into the Suns’ possession to effectively end the game.

When combined with a missed free throw from Patrick Beverley that would have tied the game with 37.4 seconds left, the Wolves will be kicking themselves for not capitalizing on their chances. Phoenix was simply the better team with the game on the line.