Just one of those games...

(Photo: Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE.)

Last night, the Phoenix Suns lost a shoot-out to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a game that went back-and-forth until the bitter end.

The Suns started out the game well with the starting unit jetting out to an early lead thet they held throughout the first quarter behind the hot shooting of Jared Dudley and Steve Nash. However, Marcin Gortat picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter, and was replaced less than halfway in by Robin Lopez who played most of the minutes from that point on as Gortat couldn't stop picking up the fouls every time he entered the game.

For the Wolves, it was Nikola Pekovic who came out hot early on making the most of his opportunities to score when the Suns doubled Kevin Love; taking advantage of mismatches and late defensive rotations. The Suns' plan to shut down Love seemed to work, but Pekovic was more than willing to be the go-to scorer and he made the Suns pay. Pekovic scored 15 points in the first quarter alone before the Suns finally starting adjusting to him. Still, the Suns maintained a lead through the first quarter due to shooting 62% from the field, and led the Wolves 34-28 heading into the second quarter.

The Suns second unit struggled in the second quarter as the T-Wolves' bench thrived. First it was Michael Beasley who came out hot hitting his first three 3-pointers and starting out 6-7 from the field overall, scoring 15 points in the second quarter alone. Beasley's hot shooting was exacerbated by a back injury that forced Grant Hill to head into the locker room for most of the second quarter.

Derrick Williams and Wayne Ellington also joined the party off the bench as they each pumped in 12 points of their own as the Wolves bench exploded for 40 points in the first half. The T-Wolves outscored the Suns 35-22 in the second quarter to lead the Suns 63-56 at the half, and as our own Alex Laugan has pointed out, the second quarter has been able to predict the eventual outcome of the game with nearly 90% accuracy...So perhaps we should have seen this coming.

Read on after the jump for more...

The second half of the game started out well for the Suns as the starters once again took control with Jared Dudley shooting lights out from everywhere on the court and Grant Hill back on the floor to anchor the defense. The Suns briefly went up by as many as five points to lead 78-73 halfway through the quarter, but just when it started looking like the Suns would finally pull away, the T-Wolves came howling back with Wesley Johnson leading the charge scoring seven quick points to tie it back up. The lead went back and forth from there, but still, the Suns outscored the Wolves 34-29 in the third quarter and cut the lead to 92-90 heading into the fourth.

The fourth quarter was an all-out offensive showcase with both teams seemingly scoring at will. The score went back and forth with nearly every possession, and neither team ever led by more than four points at any time in the quarter. Sebastian Telfair tried his best to will the Suns to a victory early on in the fourth scoring 10 points in the first eight minutes before Nash replaced him with just four minutes left in the game. But Kevin Love was also hot for the Wolves in the fourth scoring thirteen points and keeping the T-Wolves in the game. The T-Wolves eventually pulled ahead by three points with 17 seconds left in the game before Gortat was fouled and sent to the line where he could have brought the Suns to within one. But as was the case all night, Gortat just couldn't put it together and missed both of his free throws with 12 seconds remaining, and the Wolves were able to hang on for the win.

Keys To The Loss:

  • Gortat's foul trouble was obviously the biggest contributing factor in last night's loss. Robin Lopez appeared to play fairly well in the first half, but he scored only two points in the second half totaling 10 points in 24 minutes and only grabbing only 3 rebounds. Lopez also had a -14, the lowest on the team. Conversely, Gortat actually scored 8 points, grabbed 4 rebounds, and had a +9 for his 19 minutes of play which was a team high. So if Gortat was able to stay in the game longer I'm pretty sure the result would have been different. Not only that, but Gortat just wasn't the same player when playing in foul trouble. It was obvious he was playing tentatively and was not nearly as effective as usual.
  • The Wolves front court tandem of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic was more than the Suns bargained for. Love and Pekovic combined for 54 points and 15 rebounds, and shot 22-40 from the field at 55%. The Suns obviously had a game plan to stop Love early, and it almost worked. However, Pek and his teammates were ready to make the Suns pay for doubling Love in the post and they found Nikola early and often as he took advantage of all the attention being paid to his counterpart in the first half. Once the dust settled and the Suns finally adjusted, it was Love's turn to come on strong as he scored 23 points in the second half on mostly wide open threes that the Suns failed to defend.
  • The Wolves bench played great. As I pointed out in my game preview, the T-Wolves bench is chock full of talent but they are inconsistent at times, so you never know what you are going to get. Well last night the Suns got the brunt of the firepower of the Wolves' second unit, as Michael Beasley and Wayne Ellington scored 15 points a piece and Derrick Williams exploded for 19. The Wolves bench combined 52 points in all, but most of that damage was done in the second quarter when the Suns were without Grant Hill.

Summary:

This was a tough loss for the Suns who had been playing so well since the All-Star break. Even in last night's loss, the Suns definitely played well enough to win but simply couldn't overcome some of their key setbacks. It was the perfect storm of various mishaps for the Suns which the T-Wolves were able to capitalize on. That's not to take anything away from the Timberwolves, they played excellent and deserved this win. But the Suns simply could not play to their usual strengths last night due to the foul trouble of Gortat and the injury to Grant Hill in the second quarter; both of which proved to be critical factors that ultimately helped decide the game in the end.

Don't hang your heads Suns' fans, this team is still on a roll and should be able to bounce back against Utah on Wednesday. This loss was a setback for sure, but this team is definitely playing at a much higher level than they were in the first half of the season. Let's see if they are resilient enough to rebound quickly and get a much needed win tomorrow!

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PHOENIX — For five consecutive games in US Airways Center, the Phoenix Suns looked like the 1985-86 Boston Celtics. As the Western Conference hierarchy continued to take form Phoenix worked its...

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(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

In what was a shootout reminiscent of the run-n-gun Suns of old, The Phoenix Suns battled back and forth with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but ultimately came up short at the end losing 127-124.

The Timberwolves were led by Kevin Love and his 30 points and 7 rebounds after a very slow start to the game. Nikola Pekovic was also a handful in the paint scoring 24 points and grabbing 8 boards. The Suns were led by Jared Dudley and his 28 points, 9 rebounds to keep the Suns close throughout the game. Steve Nash also gave a valiant effort with 25 points and 10 assists as well.

Marcin Gortat sat on the bench throughout most of the game due to foul trouble early on, and he was never able to overcome his struggles and missed two free throws near the end of the fourth quarter that could have put the Suns down by only one. Robin Lopez played fairly well tonight scoring 10 points and blocking 3 shots in his 24 minutes of play, but the Suns just aren't the same team without Gortat.

Full Recap coming tomorrow morning. Continue on after the jump to see the game notes

Postgame Quotes:

Alvin Gentry

"[...]we just have to do a better job of understanding what happens in rotations. We can't let Kevin Love catch the ball and shoot nine times without ever putting it down. That's a little bit disappointing."

"We have to step to the line and make the free throws. Robin (Lopez) played solid and that's what's going to happen sometime. We can't always depend on the exact rotation we have. Marcin (Gortat) came back in, he's got to be able to play in foul trouble and we just didn't quite get it done."

Marcin Gortat (8 pts, 4 rebs, 4 fouls, 2-6 FTA)

"Tough game. I just wasn't read to play today."

"They have the best power forward in the league. I mean Kevin Love is just a tremendous player and we can't let him do all of these things on the floor. We have to make adjustments when he starts hitting threes and starts scoring and we didn't do that."

Jared Dudley (28 pts, 9 reb, 10-15 FGA)

"We just did a poor job defensively, obviously, to say the least. But even with that, our offense kept us in the game and still gave us a chance at the end to win the game."

"I think the pick and roll with Love and Pekovic and how we were at one point having the wings try and rotate over to Love and the bigs."

Steve Nash (25 pts, 10 ast. 10-16 FGA)

"It was an offensive game tonight, we couldn't slow each other down. They just made more plays than we did in the end."

Rick Adelman

"We shot the ball. We have to have people shoot the ball. The other thing we did was we really moved it. We had 15 assists in the first half when they came out to double team Kevin (Love) and we were trying to change things up and our guys move the ball."

Game Notes

First Quarter:

Luke Ridnour starting at the point in place of Rubio as expected

Gortat hits his first shot of the game…More please!

Gortat then misses his next two…sigh

Jump ball between Gortat and Ridnour…Not exactly a fair match

Frye with a big time block on Pek…Dudley then hits the transition three!

Dudley moving nicely without the ball and gets rewarded at the rim with a dish from Nash & and-1!

Pekovic becoming a force inside as expected, hits his fourth wide open shot when Suns leave him to cover Love…Now has 11 points to lead the Wolves. Can’t leave him open when double-teaming.

Robin Lopez coming in early for Gortat who gets his second foul…let’s see if Robin has more success against Pekovic

Dudley has 10 to lead the Suns so far halfway through the first quarter

Dudley with a nice steal on Pek and goes coast to coast to draw contact at the rim but no foul!

Pekovic is making the most of opportunistic scoring due to Suns’ double teams leaving him either open or with a mismatch.

Lopez having another effective night so far…already has 6 points

Suns lead 34-28 at the end of the 1st quarter. Suns shooting 62%, Wolves 52%. Suns with 10rbs, Wolves with 13rbs. Suns with 1 TO’s, Wolves with 3 TO’s. Dudley leading the Suns with 12 points, Nikola Pekovic leading the Wolves with 15 points. Nash also has 8 points and 6 assists already.

Second Quarter:

Suns’ second unit in to start the second quarter with exception of Grant Hill who is in to help them.

JJ Barea in for the Wolves…He hasn’t been playing lately due to an injury

Beasley hits his second three of the game and already has 8 points…Don’t want to see him get hot!

Grant Hill is in obvious pain with his back…not good. We need him on Beasley right now who is starting to catch fire.

Morris hits his first shot of the game…Good sign for him, let’s hope this breaks his funk

Morris with another hit! Glad to see him staying inside the arc to establish his rhythm

Beasley continuing his hot streak…

The Suns’ bench is getting and taking good shots but they are just bouncing out of the rim

Beasley now on fire…15 points on 3-3 shooting from three and 6-7 overall

Wolves now lead the Suns 47-46 midway through the second quarter

Gortat back in now for Lopez who also gave the Suns quality minutes scoring 8 points and blocking 3 shots in 11 minutes.

Grant Hill is expected to return to the court shortly…Great news for the Suns!

Just like that Gortat gets whistled for his third foul…Lopez coming right back in to take his place.

In comes Grant Hill! No more free-for-all for Beasley

Derrick Williams now also catching fire…He has 10 points on 3-6 shooting

Frye neglects to box out D-Will off a missed Barea free throw…D-Will converts with a foul for the chance for a three point play.

Gentry puts Nash back in to anchor the offense…Steve re-introduces himself with a quick three.

Grant Hill with a nice jumper…Great to see him back in action after a brief scare

Pekovic racking up fouls on the Suns’ bigs…Gortat with 3 and now Lopez with 2 in the first half

Wolves starting to pull away now…This isn’t looking good . Suns need to step up their D and box out.

Wolves lead 63-56 at the end of the 1st half. Suns shooting 48%, Wolves 53%. Suns with 25rbs, Wolves with 31rbs. Suns with 2 TO’s, Wolves with 6 TO’s. Nash leading the Suns with 13 points, Nikola Pekovic leading the Wolves with 16 points…Beasley has 15 points along with Williams and Ellington each with 12 points. Wolves bench is getting it done for them.

Third Quarter:

The complete first unit finally back on the floor to start the 3rd quarter…Let’s see if Gortat can stay out there without picking up another foul

Dudley picking back up where he left off…scores two baskets right off the bat

Dudley is MAN ON FIRE!!! Hitting three’s and jumpers all over the court and shooting with confidence…he now has 22!

Frye hits a three as well as the Suns regain the lead 76-73 with the starters back in control. Timeout Wolves

And just like that, Gortat gets his 4th foul…Hello Lopez

Suns have to stay aggressive here as the Wolves have tied it up at 80-80.

Score going back and forth now but the Suns are starting to flatten out after a great run to retake the lead briefly

Wolves now back up 92-85…Suns struggling once more and Gentry is looking to find an answer to get more energy and offense…Might we see some Hak?

Nope, no Hakim yet…But Dudley scores on a nice drive to the rim after the timeout

After a stop at the other end, Nash gets the basket and draws the foul…92-90 Here we come!

Wolves are now 11-16 from beyond the arc…That can’t continue!

Fourth Quarter:

Wolves are now 11-16 from beyond the arc…That can’t continue!

Lopez doing a nice job tonight in place for Gortat who has only played 15 minutes.

Derrick Williams continuing his hot streak hitting another 3. Now has 14 points and 8 rebounds.

Frye answers back with a three of his own. Suns back up 105-104

Derrick Williams hits another three. Get on him!

Telfair hits a three and draws the foulwhich he converts…4 point play

Bassy then gets a steal and fast breaks to the hoop…Telfair taking the game over!!! Suns up 111-107

Markieff with another block…He’s had his best game since before the all-star break

Ellington hits a three for the T-wolves to retake the lead 112-111

Channing Frye answers back with a three as well...

Wolves and Suns in a real shoot out going back and forth…Team with the last shot may get the win

Kevin Love quietly having another great night...has 28 points

Game coming down to the final seconds with the Wolves up 125-122 with 17 seconds left

T-Wolves win . Suns shot 52%, Wolves 57%. Suns with 47rbs, Wolves with 49rbs. Suns with 2 TO’s, Wolves with 6 TO’s. Dudley led the Suns with 28 points, 9 rebounds, Kevin Love led the Wolves with30 points, 7 rebounds



Not exactly the first half we had hoped for...The Suns' starters got it done but the bench will need to play better in the second half if the Suns are going to turn this around. The Timberwolves bench scored 40, yes 40 points in the first half! That can't continue...Let's step it up and get this win!!!


PHOENIX — With the Phoenix Suns set to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves at 7 p.m. MST in US Airways Center, head coach Alvin Gentry weighed in on Ricky Rubio’s injury, the recent play...

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