Summing it Up

Wow. This one is tough to capture in just a few words. I'll just say a lot of Suns had huge performances and Phoenix won on a big time shot by Gerald Green. Now on to the full recap.

Telling the Story

The game got off to a rough start for the Suns, while Kevin Martin was red-hot for Minnesota. The Timberwolves went on a 9-0 run on a perfect 4-4 start, with seven of those points being scored by Martin.However, Miles Plumlee finally got on the board and they dominated the rest of the quarter, outscoring the Wolves 27-14 and holding them to just 3-23 shooting after that 4-4 start.

Channing Frye was the high scorer for the Suns in the period with 10, but the two stars were recently re-signed Leandro Barbosa and the now mostly healthy Alex Len. Barbosa, who came straight from the Brazilian league showed he was still the Blur Suns fans remember from the Seven Seconds or Less days, recording an assist, a rebound and a bucket on his first two possessions. Barbosa certainly wasn't shy, getting off five shots in less than five minutes of play during the quarter, and although he only made one pretty much all his shots were good looks around the rim. He finished with three points on 1-6 shooting, three rebounds and three assists. As for Len, he checked in and pulled down three rebounds (all on the offensive end) and put one of them back up in in late in the quarter. He struggled later in the game, but was great in the first quarter and finished with two points and five rebounds.

The Suns continued to play well in the second quarter, hanging tight on the boards and knocking down 3-pointers (something they didn't do at all against Chicago the night before). Kevin Martin continued to score points, but the Wolves as a team just didn't play as well as the Suns. The Suns took a 53-47 lead into halftime despite shooting just 38 percent from the field.

Dragic was steady in both quarters, finishing the half with 12 points and six assists, while Frye tacked on five more points to finish the half with 15. Marcus Morris came off the bench and got some buckets when the team was a bit stagnant, recording seven points on 3-4 shooting and four rebounds. The Timberwolves' fearsome front line of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic combined for just eight points on 3-20 shooting in the first half and Minnesota as a whole shot 33 percent.

The momentum shifted in the third quarter, however, as the Timberwolves picked up their execution and the Suns... didn't. The Suns missed shots, and the Timberwolves made them pay by getting Corey Brewer out on the break. He had nine points in the period after going scoreless in the first half. Kevin Love hit a few shots as well, going 2-5 from the field (an improvement from what he was doing before) and scoring seven points. By the halfway point, Minnesota had tied it up at 61-61. Later, tied at 69-69, Minnesota closed the quarter on and 8-3 run and led 77-72 after three.

The two teams went back and forth in the fourth, with the Timberwolves maintaining a one to two possession lead until Nikola Pekovic took over. Miles Plumlee had kept him in check for most of the game, but Pekovic decided he had had enough of that and went to work in the post. He had nine points in the fourth, opened up Corey Brewer for a pair of threes by drawing double-teams and fouled out Plumlee with 2:44 left.

At that point, the Timberwolves were up 102-95 after Pekovic sunk both free throws. Dragic sunk a pair for the Suns, Brewer split a pair, Tucker made two himself and the lead shrunk to four. Love put up a hook that bounced hard off the rim, Dragic tracked down the rebound, pushed it down court and used a Dragon-step to score. Lead down to two. The Suns trapped the Minnesota bigs on the perimeter and forced a turnover, which Markieff Morris took all the way down court to draw a foul. Keef went to the line with a chance to tie the game with 41.4 seconds left. He hit the first... but missed the second. One-point game. The Timberwolves tried to run a pick-and-roll out of a Horns set, but Ricky Rubio took it too hard, got trapped behind the basket and his pass was picked off by Keef.

The Suns had 16.4 seconds left, and Jeff Hornacek put the ball in his best players hands. Goran Dragic looked to attack but got himself in trouble, getting caught in the air with no room to shoot, but was able to find Markieff Morris before his feet hit the floor. Gerald Green ran to take the ball from Keef, rose up (about 40 inches) and drilled a crazy leaning jumper with 3.9 left on the clock.

The Timberwolves came back with a chance to win it, but Kevin Martin's runner over P.J. Tucker got stuck on the rim and fell short. Game over.

Suns win.

Top Performers

  • Goran Dragic: One day after playing 34 minutes against a physical Chicago Bulls team, Goran Dragic played 41 tonight and finished with 26 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Once again, without Eric Bledsoe, Dragic had to shoulder nearly all of the playmaking duties, and that burden was not too heavy for him in this one as he stepped up when the team needed him most with 12 fourth quarter points. Dragic was praised repeatedly as an All-Star by ESPN's broadcast crew (even though they couldn't get his name right). Perhaps now people will start to take notice of how great he has been this year.
  • Channing Frye: Dragic took over in the fourth, but Channign Frye was the one carrying the team through the first three quarters. He finished with 22 points on 8-17 shooting and 5-10 from deep. Oh, he also drew the primary assignment on Kevin Love and did a phenomenal job, holding the NBA's second leading scorer to 15 points on 4-20 shooting. Bravo, Mr. Frye. Bravo.
  • Miles Plumlee: Plumlee finished one rebound shy of a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds. He may have got taken to school and fouled out in the fourth, but through the first three quarters Plumlee's defense on Pekovic was terrific. Pekovic finished with 17 points on 16 shots, but he was 3-12 heading into the fourth quarter. Now if only someone would teach him how to box out...
  • P.J Tucker: Tucker only scored four points on 1-5 shooting, but he pulled down 10 rebounds and was a big reason the Suns were only -1 on the boards. He also stayed in front of Martin and avoided fouling him on that final possession.
  • Gerald Green: Green didn't have a great game, scoring 14 points on just 5-12 shooting. However, he did hit the biggest shot of the game and for that he is a hero.
  • Marcus Morris: Mook had a bad game against Chicago, but he bounced back against the Wolves and was the only player off either team's bench to reach double figures. He finished with 10 points on 4-6 shooting and five rebounds.
  • Markieff Morris: Keef had an even worse game against Chicago, and wasn't all that great tonight. He had just eight points on 3-10 shooting and five rebounds. However, he was in on the two biggest plays of the game. He played great defense against Rubio on the penultimate Wolves possession and picked off the pass, then bailed out Dragic and found Green for the game-winning assist on the other end. Clutch.
  • Kevin Martin: Martin led the Wolves and hit right at his average with 20 points, but he was scoreless in the fourth and wasn't able to convert on that last shot.

Final Thoughts

  • If you notice above, I included almost everybody on the roster in the standout performers section. That is because all of them had a big impact on this game in one way or another. This was a tremendous team win for the Suns.
  • Well, almost everybody was mentioned. Ish Smith was -10 in his 12 minutes on the court. He did get one nice offensive rebound, but the Suns really just can't do anything when he is out there running the show.
  • Everyone knows this, but the Suns REALLY miss Eric Bledsoe. Goran Dragic is the only current healthy player that can dribble the ball and not do something stupid with it. The Suns need a second playmaker or they're going to kill Dragic.
  • Perhaps Leandro Barbosa can be that guy. Barbosa only made on shot, but I thought he looked much better than I expected. All his shots were around the rim, meaning he still has the speed to get to the rim. When Barbosa can get a little more comfortable with the system, maybe he can be that guy outside of Dragic and Bledsoe to make things happen off the bench. There are still nine days left on his contract. Hopefully by the end of it he'll sign something to keep him around a little bit longer.
  • The officiating was bad tonight. There were plenty of missed calls all night long. Suns fans might complain (and with some reason) about the 30-18 disparity in fouls called. However, the way it was called benefited the Suns more so than the Timberwolves. The refs let them play inside and didn't give Love and Pekovic foul calls when the Suns were being pretty physical. Dragic didn't get calls on some of his drives either, but in the end the Suns got the win so I suggest not worrying about it.
  • The Timberwolves are now 0-10 in games decided by four points or less this season. For whatever reason, they just haven't been able to execute down the stretch, and that is why they are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. Pekovic was dominating on the block, but I don't think they went back to him on the block a single time after Plumlee fouled out.
  • Overall, this was a huge win, perhaps the best of the season considering they just played in Chicago the night before.
  • Shout-out to you Bright Siders for killing it in the game thread. Nearly 1300 comments. Great job.
  • Now for some tweets:

Huge defense end!!! And huge shot from Gerald Green!!! Incredible W over the Minnesota 104-103! Feels so good to be back #SunsNation

— Leandro Barbosa (@TheBlur_Barbosa) January 9, 2014

Thanks Suns family for all those positive msgs here!!! I love y'all #SunsNation #GreatEnergy

— Leandro Barbosa (@TheBlur_Barbosa) January 9, 2014

Big win tonight!!! I love how we fight till the end.. Not making shots isn't the be all tell all.. Do somethin else to effect the game

— PJ Tucker (@PJTUCKER17) January 9, 2014

It's not about scoring 20 every night, do something to help your team win, lots of things not on the stat sheet that can change a game

— PJ Tucker (@PJTUCKER17) January 9, 2014

It's not about scoring 20 every night, do something to help your team win, lots of things not on the stat sheet that can change a game

— PJ Tucker (@PJTUCKER17) January 9, 2014

Jeff Hornacek on what he told the @Suns heading into final defensive possession... "Guard them."

Phoenix Suns (@Suns) January 9, 2014

One off the best wins in my career tonight vs Timberwolves!! It was all team effort. Let's go @Suns #IgniteTheFuture

— Goran Dragic (@Goran_Dragic) January 9, 2014

It was nice to have @TheBlur_Barbosa back with the @Suns !!! #IgniteTheFuture

— Goran Dragic (@Goran_Dragic) January 9, 2014

"@jozerdaclozer44: @Channing_Frye had that Super Saiyan going after the final buzzer. Lol"- I'm surprised my hair did grow n go blonde

— Channing Frye (@Channing_Frye) January 9, 2014

Until Eric Bledsoe returns from his knee sprain, the Phoenix Suns seem destined to look as they have against Chicago on Tuesday and Minnesota on Wednesday. What they looked like was a...

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Until Jacob has a chance to write the recap:


Time: 7:30 p.m. MST TV: ESPN The Phoenix Suns have more than earned the chance for some primetime TV billing, however, Wednesday’s season debut on ESPN, at least on paper, couldn’t come at a more...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

The Suns and Timberwolves are two of the better offensive teams in the league and both are fun to watch, and ESPN has realized that and opted to show tonight's game on national television. Let's preview the match-up.

Suns @ Timberwolves

  • Records: PHX 20-13 (3rd, Pacific); MIN 17-17 (4th, Northwest)
  • Time: 6:30 PST, 7:30 AZT, 8:30 CST, 9:30 EST
  • TV: ESPN (Yay national TV!)

I could have done a standard preview for this game and given you my thoughts and opinions about the Wolves. Instead, I decided to take advantage of my Timberwolves Twitter connections and started talking about the match-up with Zachary Bennett, who covers the T-Wolves for and also writes for

That discussion turned into a full-blown question and answer session as you can see below. My questions and comments are in bold, while the rest of it is all Zachary. Educate yourself on the state of the Wolves and get ready for a fun game tonight.

1) First and foremost, Kevin Love is the hottest name on the trade market and every fan base - including and perhaps especially Suns fans - wants him. People assume he is just going to not re-sign with Minnesota and that they are going to trade him sooner rather than later. You're a bit closer to the situation than most Suns fans are. What is your read on it?

Well, that didn't take long -- the first question is somewhat of a forbidden topic in Minnesota. Love very well could leave at the end of next season. The front office budgeted to pay two players a max contract at the end of next season, the second being Rubio. It was believed that Love, a power forward, would be incapable of carrying a team to a championship on his own -- even Batman needed help from Robin. Budgeting for a second "superstar" put Love out of another year and $20 million dollars, and if the Wolves qualify for the postseason -- it could be argued that he's the league MVP, but it's a tough sell. He's really playing as well as anybody. The Wolves need to make a deep run, either this season or the next, to show Love can win here.

It's not that he's mad about the money as much as he is about how David Kahn and the others went about doing things -- he's mad about the process of the entire transaction. Love has certainly boosted his stock, and teams are going to want to pay him, making it seem as if he'll leave. Why would he stay in Minnesota?

Flip Saunders, hired as the new President of Basketball Operations during the offseason, is a trustworthy name from back in his days as the Wolves' head coach during the Kevin Garnett era. Saunders knows what losing a supreme all-NBA talent can do to a franchise; maybe he clean up the mess Kahn left behind him by budgeting in Love's favor when it's time to pay the piper. Or maybe he'll sell the most valuable asset for value paid by the highest bidder. It's likely he'll leave, though it wouldn't surprise me if he stays.

Sorry, I had to ask. I figured I'd go the rip-the-band-aid-off method and get it out of the way quickly. With Kahn out of the way, I do think Minnesota has a better chance to keep him. But it is likely going to take a healthy and successful season.

2) The Timberwolves are hanging around .500 at the moment and are currently on the outside looking it in the playoff picture. It looks like the Suns (perhaps the best bet of the group), Mavericks, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Pelicans and Grizzlies are the teams competing for the 7th and 8th seeds in the West (the equivalent of the 3rd and 4th seeds in the East). Call your shot right now and tell me which two will make the postseason (Suns fans are obviously rooting for the Wolves to make it with a draft pick on the line).

Now that you bring up Suns fans, I'd like to admit I sort of am one. I was born - and went to high school - in Phoenix and my first jersey as a child was the Suns '90s home whites (Kevin Johnson). I would love nothing more than to see both make the playoffs, but as far as the pick is concerned -- Phoenix took Michael Beasley and Wes Johnson off the Wolves' hands. We're pretty square, and this is a season Minnesota must make the playoffs (See: Love's Future Q #1).

I don't think it's the Nuggets or Pelicans, and don't see the Grizzlies making noise again, so we're left with the Mavericks, Suns and the Wolves. There's no way both of the teams that I grew up supporting make the post-season, so I'll just leave my answer at that.

For everyone's sake, I'm going to just say I hope both of your teams DO make it. As far as Dallas goes, I just can't buy into the Mavericks with Monta Ellis having it all, but they're going to be hanging around all season with Dirk and Marion doing their thing. Memphis has been pretty unimpressive, but I just can't help but think if they can get Marc Gasol healthy they'll have a shot to stay relevant; I think Courtney Lee was a good pick-up. The Pelicans have Anthony Davis who is already one of my favorite players in the League, so I won't count them out either. Can't we just steal playoff spots from the East? It doesn't need them anyway.

3) The Timberwolves are a tough team to figure out. They are in the top third of the NBA in free throw shooting, rebounds, assists, steals, points, ball security, forcing turnovers and not fouling. However, they are in the bottom third in 2-point, 3-point and overall field goal percentage as well as blocks. All that results in a .500 record. Make some sense of these numbers for me; what kind of team is Minnesota?

One of my favorite shows is HBO's "The Newsroom," and it's a scene from the pilot episode of the series that describes the Wolves best. "They're not a playoff team in the Western Conference, but they can be."

Here's where I sneak in a bit of self promotion. I wrote a quite lengthy ‘bit' on Adelman being a proverbial old dog that needs to use some new tricks. Hovering around .500 isn't where anyone wants to be at the end of the season. The Wolves bench - in the most kindest way - has been mediocre, rim protection is bad and Rubio's scoring are all considered the reasons the Wolves don't win more games. Ronny Turiaf is back, Chase Budinger's return is imminent -- maybe these make them the 6-7-8 seed team, theoretically, that they are.

4) Ricky Rubio has been pretty atrocious as a scorer, averaging just 9 points on 35.1 percent from the field, yet he is shooting 85.3 percent from the line. What the heck is going on with him? Is this just an extended slump or are you worried about him moving forward?

Hand placement when he shoots, no real ‘knack' or ‘go-to' place he looks for buckets, problems finishing around the rim -- he's frustrating to critique as a scorer. Rubio's passing accounts for 19.6 of Minnesota's 107.4 points per game, add the nine aforementioned points, mix in the defensive impact (three steals) he accounts for per game -- and you have a heckuva basketball ball player. Here are his shooting percentages sorted by area.

  • 43.6% in the restricted area. Yikes.
  • 23.1% in the paint but outside of the restricted area.
  • 28.3% in midrange areas.
  • 38.8% on 3's "above the break"

I'd like to see him score more. It could be his shooting or finishing around the rim, either place there's room for him to improve. The easiest way Rubio could boost his per game average, which commonly gets blown out of proportion, would be for him to begin finishing around the rim, right? I think his larger critics would be silenced if he is averaging 15 points at this time next season.

There's no doubting the impact he has on the team, but I just can't help but feel having a point guard who isn't a threat to even convert layups at a high rate just limits you so much. I had questions about Rubio's upside before he was drafted because of his lack of scoring; hopefully he can keep getting better because he's certainly fun to watch when things are going well.

5) The Wolves made some moves to upgrade the wings, something they desperately needed after last year. How are the Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer signings working out? What about the Derrick Williams for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute trade?

Martin is the shooting guard this team has been waiting on for the longest time. It's possible he's the best 2-guard in team history and he hasn't even played a full season. Martin is scoring almost 20 points per game and - on average - five of them come from the free-throw line. Aside from Love, he's been the most important player for the Wolves this season. Yes, even more so than Rubio.

Brewer's presence was huge early in the season when the Wolves scored a considerable amount of points on his leak-outs in transition; he led the league in transition points for a bit. When Love's outlet passing, which the Suns will see tonight if there are any lapses defensively, coincides with this advanced method of ‘cherry picking.' The duo makes opposing coaches furious -- teams game plan to stop this.

(The Suns have their own version of this with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic; too bad Bledsoe is going to miss the game)

Offensively, he's frustrating at times. That's being nice. There are times he dribbles out of control, in the halfcourt and in transition, trying to do too much. Other than the outlet passes, he's not much of a scoring threat.

Brewer's role is somewhat to replace Andre Kirilenko defensively. Kirilenko signed with the Brooklyn Nets during the offseason, but hasn't played much because of injury, making Brewer's presence an overall net-positive. When Budinger returns, Adelman will be able to interchange these two -- making each player more valuable in their own way by consolidating the expectations for each.

So basically he's the same old Corey Brewer the Wolves drafted a handful of years ago? Perhaps absence made the heart grow fonder? I know he was far from beloved in his first Minnesota stint.

6) Eric Bledsoe has been fantastic and has gotten most of the publicity, but he is going to be missing his third straight game with a sprained knee. However, as good as Bledsoe has been it is Goran Dragic who is leading the team in scoring and assists and driving the team's success. What are your thoughts on Dragic's match-up with Rubio, who is one of the better defensive point guards in the league?

I watched Dragic (and his brother for that matter) play during EuroBasket over the summer and I love his game. These two are going to be fun. As I mentioned Rubio is a thief and his quickness and length make him one of the better defensive point guards -- a rare commodity in the NBA.

However, Dragic is the type of player that is up to the task no matter how tough the challenge. He's going to keep Rubio's hands full, and I think having the ball a majority of the game will help Dragic as the game goes on. He's the type of scorer that surveys his defender throughout the game, determines a weakness and how to best exploit it, and shoots, drives, and distributes as necessary -- he's a smart player.

I liked Goran last year but this year he has completely won me over. He's just been so darn good. People need to start taking notice.

7) Give me your key to the game and your prediction.

How can the Suns keep pace with the Wolves? I didn't even mention how well Nikola Pekovic is scoring. Combine the expected production of Pek, Love, and Martin and - generously - predict a solid outing from rotational players J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham and I think there's too much firepower for the Suns to handle without Bledsoe.

The Morris twins must play above average, Gerald Green needs to step up without Bledsoe and Channing Frye needs to match Love's effort behind the 3-point line in order to keep this close. If time is winding down and the game is within single-digits, Dragic and the Suns have every chance of winning this game. Can they contain the Wolves for the first three quarters? We'll see, but I think the Wolves are going to win this game. Although I shouldn't feel this confident about it at all.

Pace is certainly something that is key for the Suns. They're scoring 20 points per game in transition and Goran Dragic is a one-man fast break. What hurts the Suns is that they are playing the second game of a back-to-back tonight. Stamina could be an issue in what should be a fast-paced, exciting game. However, with the Suns losing to a very short-handed Bulls team I think they come out ready to go. We're going to have to agree to disagree on the outcome of this one.

Thanks to Zachary for taking the time to answer my questions so thoroughly. Check out my answers to his questions over at Timberpups.

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 33 36.4 8.8 18.6 47.0 2.6 6.6 38.8 6.3 7.7 81.6 3.5 9.8 13.3 4.2 2.5 0.9 0.4 1.8 26.4
Kevin Martin 32 33.2 6.5 15.2 42.5 1.9 4.8 40.0 4.8 5.3 90.6 0.6 2.8 3.4 2.1 1.8 1.2 0.1 1.8 19.7
Nikola Pekovic 34 33.6 7.2 13.6 52.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 3.6 5.0 71.9 4.3 5.0 9.3 1.0 1.6 0.5 0.4 2.4 18.0
Corey Brewer 34 32.6 4.5 10.4 43.8 1.1 3.8 28.9 1.9 2.6 74.7 0.8 1.8 2.6 1.6 1.6 1.7 0.4 2.6 12.1
Ricky Rubio 34 31.9 2.9 8.2 34.8 0.6 1.7 33.9 2.6 3.0 85.3 0.8 3.9 4.6 8.3 2.8 2.8 0.2 2.5 8.9
J.J. Barea 34 18.7 3.4 8.3 40.9 1.1 3.0 36.3 0.6 0.9 66.7 0.2 1.6 1.8 3.6 1.5 0.3 0.0 1.4 8.4
Dante Cunningham 34 19.4 2.6 5.7 44.6 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.2 0.3 60.0 1.6 2.4 4.0 1.0 0.4 0.8 0.6 1.7 5.3
Luc Mbah a Moute 24 19.2 1.6 3.4 46.3 0.1 0.3 25.0 0.9 1.6 57.9 1.2 2.1 3.3 1.0 0.8 0.8 0.3 1.2 4.2
Alexey Shved 31 11.1 1.0 3.7 27.2 0.5 1.7 26.9 1.0 1.2 78.9 0.4 1.0 1.5 1.1 0.6 0.5 0.4 0.7 3.4
Robbie Hummel 27 11.1 1.1 3.1 36.1 0.5 1.7 28.9 0.2 0.2 100.0 0.8 1.9 2.7 0.3 0.1 0.3 0.0 1.0 2.9
A.J. Price 14 4.0 0.6 1.4 45.0 0.2 0.7 30.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.4 0.4 0.7 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.3 1.5
Gorgui Dieng 19 5.3 0.6 1.4 42.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.8 33.3 0.6 1.3 1.9 0.4 0.5 0.3 0.7 1.3 1.4
Shabazz Muhammad 11 3.7 0.4 1.5 25.0 0.1 0.3 33.3 0.3 0.4 75.0 0.3 0.5 0.7 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.2 1.1
Ronny Turiaf 3 13.7 0.3 1.7 20.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.3 100.0 1.0 3.0 4.0 1.0 0.7 0.3 1.0 2.3 1.0

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