Shannon Brown has plenty to smile about with his recent scoring outbursts.

When we last saw the Timberwolves, they hung 127 points on the Suns in Phoenix behind 14-22 3-point shooting, Nikola Pekovic outplaying Marcin Gortat, who was in foul trouble most of the night, and three bench players scoring in double figures in a 127-124 Wolves win.

It was a disappointing loss for a Suns team that was starting to gain momentum last month and had beaten the Wolves nine consecutive times before that game, but turned out to be a mere bump in the road as Phoenix won their next four and have climbed back into the playoff race at 29-27

The Wolves, meanwhile, have fallen on hard times, posting a 3-11 record since that March 12th victory, including their current five-game losing streak. Their record now stands at 25-32, and Minnesota is all but eliminated from playoff contention. They've been missing rising star point guard Ricky Rubio, out for the season due to a knee injury, and his backup Luke Ridnour is also currently out with a sprained ankle.

In the Wolves' last three games, they've lost to the worst teams in the Western Conference: the Kings, Warriors and Hornets. This, Suns fans, is a team on the skids. But they still have All-Star Kevin Love, the gigantic Pekovic, and scorers Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams.

With 10 games left in a playoff race, trailing the 8th spot by a game, the Suns can't afford to slip up against a sputtering Wolves team.



The Suns are coming off their best offensive performance of the season in a 125-105 win over the Lakers Saturday night. Michael Redd and Shannon Brown exploded for a combined 47 points, Phoenix made 14 3-point shots and committed only 3 turnovers. In the 7 games Brown has started since Grant Hill went down with his knee injury, he's averaging 17.6 PPG and 4.3 RPG on 45% FG shooting.

Redd looks to be rounding into better health and conditioning and is providing the scoring pop in short stretches that the Suns have needed from a bench player, averaging 8,0 PPG in 14.4 MPG and leading the Suns in points/36 minutes with 20.0. The low risk signing of a player whose skill set exactly fits the Suns needs was a major win for the Suns front office, as Wil noted.

In the last meeting, Pekovic thorougly outplayed Gortat, scoring 24 points and getting Gortat into foul trouble. Gortat scored only 8 points to go with 4 rebounds in 20 minutes of action, but still had a chance to be the hero before missing two critical FTs late in the game. I'm looking forward to a Gortat redemption game tonight. At 290 lbs, Pekovic has a size advantage on Gortat, but he doesn't have the agility and quickness to keep up with our hard-working Pole. Gortat needs to show that tonight, and I expect he will.

This game has the potential to look similar to Saturday night's Lakers game, as Wolves bigs Love and Pekovic will be hard to handle, but the Suns should be able to continue their high-scoring ways against a Wolves team that does't play strong defense.

ESPN2 will broadcast the game, and I'm sure that looked much better to their programming directors when it figured to be a Ricky Rubio/Steve Nash matchup. They'll have to settle for J.J. Barea instead of Rubio.

Likely starters:

PG Steve Nash vs. J.J. Barea

SG Shannon Brown vs. Martell Webster

SF Jared Dudley vs. Wesley Johnson

PF Channing Frye vs. Kevin Love

C Marcin Gortat vs. Nikola Pekovic


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Kevin Love 53 39.6 8.8 19.5 45.1 2.0 5.2 37.7 7.0 8.5 82.2 4.2 9.4 13.5 2.1 2.3 0.8 0.5 2.8 26.5
Nikola Pekovic 38 26.1 5.3 9.3 57.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.8 3.6 77.5 4.0 3.2 7.2 0.6 2.1 0.7 0.7 2.3 13.4
Luke Ridnour 53 33.0 4.6 10.4 44.0 0.9 2.9 32.2 2.0 2.2 89.1 0.4 2.3 2.7 4.8 1.8 1.1 0.3 2.6 12.1
Michael Beasley 38 22.7 4.6 10.4 44.6 0.9 2.1 43.2 1.3 2.0 64.0 0.8 3.5 4.3 0.9 1.6 0.4 0.4 1.8 11.4
Ricky Rubio 41 34.2 3.4 9.5 35.7 0.8 2.3 34.0 3.1 3.8 80.3 0.5 3.7 4.2 8.2 3.2 2.2 0.2 2.4 10.6
J.J. Barea 32 22.1 3.4 8.9 38.5 1.0 2.9 34.8 1.9 2.3 80.0 0.4 2.2 2.7 4.5 2.3 0.4 0.0 1.3 9.8
Derrick Williams 57 21.8 3.2 7.5 42.7 0.6 2.0 28.4 1.9 2.8 67.1 1.2 3.6 4.8 0.6 1.2 0.5 0.5 1.4 8.9
Martell Webster 38 22.8 2.3 5.6 41.7 0.7 2.1 34.2 1.2 1.6 78.3 0.9 2.6 3.5 0.7 1.0 0.7 0.4 1.8 6.6
Wayne Ellington 45 19.0 2.4 6.0 40.3 0.7 2.1 34.7 0.6 0.8 82.4 0.3 1.5 1.7 0.6 0.5 0.5 0.2 1.1 6.2
Wesley Johnson 56 22.6 2.5 6.3 39.4 0.8 2.6 29.3 0.3 0.5 63.0 0.4 2.4 2.8 0.9 1.0 0.6 0.7 1.8 6.0
Anthony Randolph 25 12.0 2.2 4.4 49.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.2 1.7 69.8 1.1 1.7 2.8 0.4 1.0 0.4 0.5 1.5 5.5
Darko Milicic 29 16.3 2.0 4.5 45.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.6 1.3 43.2 1.2 2.1 3.3 0.6 1.1 0.3 0.9 2.0 4.6
Anthony Tolliver 42 17.8 1.5 3.7 41.3 0.5 2.0 26.5 0.9 1.2 74.5 1.0 2.0 3.0 0.4 0.6 0.3 0.4 1.7 4.5
Malcolm Lee 11 11.1 1.0 2.5 40.7 0.1 0.5 20.0 0.6 0.7 87.5 0.5 1.0 1.5 1.3 1.1 0.5 0.3 1.4 2.7
Brad Miller 12 7.6 0.5 1.4 35.3 0.4 0.8 55.6 0.6 0.7 87.5 0.2 0.6 0.8 1.3 0.8 0.1 0.1 0.6 2.0

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Jimmer can't touch The Dragon.

Goran Dragic has officially been killing it for the Houston Rockets. The "official" part comes in the form of a Western Conference Player of the Week Award from the NBA. LeBron James in the East. Goran Dragic in the West. Chew on that.

Gogi is averaging 17.9 points and 8.8 assists per game in 18 starts in place of Kyle Lowry this season. He's shooting a ridiculous 51.6% from the field and 42.5% from three.

Those are Jeremy Lin numbers (18.2 ppg, 7.6 apg, 25 GS, FG% .445, 3P% .343). Those are better than Jeremy Lin numbers actually, especially when you factor in the turnovers (Dragic, 2.95/gm; Lin 4.68/gm).

Clearly, the Suns trade that sent Goran AND a 1st round pick to Houston was a disaster. Let's not even go back over that ground.

The question for you, dear Suns fans, is this:

Poll
Does Goran's success in Houston make you feel MORE...

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Phoenix Suns 114, Minnesota Timberwolves 90 PHOENIX — We’ve come to the point of the season where there’s no way to overemphasize how important each and every game is to...

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Nice to have you in the desert, Mike

The Phoenix Suns front office is an enigmatic, easy to dislike group. They have been very quiet this season, and most of the public statements they've made haven't given us fans much to sink our teeth into as far as the direction of this franchise that has been in the process of rebuilding for um, heck when did rebuilding start? When D'Antoni left and was replaced by Porter? When Marion was traded for Shaq? When Kerr and Co. left? When Amare left?

Nevermind.

The hallmark of any frugal sports franchise is the low risk-high reward signing. While it sounds kind of technical in a sense, it's pretty easy to identify. Take Michael Redd as an example. Once, a former NBA All-Star with the Milwaukee Bucks, Redd shredded his ACL and MCL not once but twice. After finishing up a 6 year $91 million dollar deal with the Bucks, Redd faced a very long road back to his former self. Once he was healthy enough to garner offers from various teams, he chose the Phoenix Suns.

Thanks to father time and the Aaron Nelson posse of medical magicians, Redd has prospered at the perfect stretch of the Suns season.

If anyone knows something about rebounding from injuries, it is Steve Nash, who spoke of Redd: "He's turning the corner...We're seeing more consistent basketball out of Mike because his body is getting better and better. I just feel excited for him. He feels better every night and he can do the things he's accustomed to doing."

The Suns have struggled for offense sporadically all season, especially in the second unit. Redd's resurgence has been unexpected and well-timed. If the Suns make the playoffs, it will be in part due to Redd getting healthy and producing at a down the stretch. Perhaps the suits upstairs deserve a pat on the back for this one.

Suns Michael Redd 'turning the corner'-AZ Central/Paul Coro

Redd, 32, has scored at least 15 points in four consecutive games for the first time since January 2009, which was before his first ACL tear. He has averaged 18.3 points off the bench and become the bench's go-to player. The four games came over five nights, showing that his knee is holding up just fine 40 games later.

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This picture is too AWESOME not to share. Catch the Wabbit!

What is going on with the Dallas Mavericks? Suddenly they are just barely in the seventh spot and in real danger of falling out of the playoff race. They've lost four of their last six games and are just one game ahead of the Phoenix Suns in the loss column.

Are the Mavs really catch-able? It's hard to believe, but theoretically possible. Other teams the Suns are chasing are falling back as well except for those pesky Houston Rockets with their pesky little Slovenian Point Guard Who Shan't Be Named (because naming Goran Dragic just dredges up memories or a horrible, horrible trade which, as Paul Coro pointed out, also cost a chance at Jordan Hamilton).

On Sunday, the Rockets took care of the Kings and have Kyle Lowry back. The Jazz fell to the Spurs and get to play them again on Monday. Go Spurs! (ugh).

Last week, the Suns had a tough stretch. They went 3-1 and are seriously pissed they blew that game in Denver. This week is another tough one with the T-Wolves, Grizzlies, Rockets and Spurs. If they go 3-1 again, they will make the playoffs. Book it.

Also, major props to the Arizona Diamondbacks for starting their season with a SWEEP over the S.F. Giants, including another comeback win on Sunday when they battled back from a 6-0 deficit.

Tonight, the Jazz, Nuggets and Rockets are all in action while the Mavs rest. Full standings and recaps of key games after the jump. So like the man said, JUMP!!

NBA Western Conference Standings via NBA.com

Wc_standings_040912_medium

Houston Rockets (31-25, 6th) BEAT Sacramento Kings (19-38, Dead)

Lowry Returns, Rockets Stumble to Blowout Win In Sacramento - The Dream Shake
Let me repeat, Kyle Lowry is back. Never have I been happier to be wrong about a prognostication. I thought Lowry would miss the rest of the season, yet here he is. He lost 15-20 lbs while he was sick, yet he remains a badass. He looks too thin, though, not enough like an NFL safety. I suggest he visits Voodoo Donuts and orders a few maple and bacon specials when in Portland. It's near the hotel and open all night.

Utah Jazz (29-28, 9th) LOST to the San Antonio Spurs (40-14, WOW)

Jazz Vs. Spurs Post Game Thread: Maybe we can doo eet . . . tomorrow? - SLC Dunk
Blech. Where to start? The Spurs shot over 50 fg%, we shot barely 44 fg%. The Spurs shot 43 free throws, and missed only 5. We shot 26 and missed 10. Daniel Green had half as many blocks as our entire team. Tony Parker was too quick. Manu Ginobili was off of his shot, but still went to the line 15 times (that's a month for Al Jefferson). And well, Tim Duncan was still the old master with yet another double double, 3 block, and the win, night against the Jazz.

Stay tuned for Suns vs. Timberwolves tonight.

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