The Suns have been playing 19 year old Archie Goodwin as the fourth guard all season, but Leandro Barbosa's arrival just might push Goodwin to the bench.

For the time being, new (and old) Phoenix Suns guard Leandro Barbosa will fill some of the gaping hole at scorer/playmaker left behind by the injured Eric Bledsoe.

In one game, last night's win improbable win over Minnesota, Barbosa showed the Suns he is easily the fourth best guard on the roster and can provide a key contribution for the rest of the season. In 13 minutes, "The Brazilion Blur" showed the speed for which he was famous by blowing past Minnesota defenders time and again.

Barbosa made only one of six shots but every shot was a good one, and between those shots he racked up 3 rebounds, 3 assists and blocked a shot while showing he can reprise what Bledsoe and Dragic do for the Suns: create his own shot from the key of the key when a play breaks down.

Goodwin the future, but LB the present

It's clear that Barbosa can be a scorer/playmaker off the bench in a four-guard rotation. For now, he's surrounded by Dragic, Gerald Green and Ish Smith, already better this season than Archie Goodwin.

The 19 year old Goodwin will still get spot time, but much like Ish Smith - who logged only 35 minutes in all of December - that time will likely only come as a sparkplug rather than a rotation regular. Offensively, Barbosa provides more than Goodwin, though he won't play defense as well. Lately, the Suns have been more starved for secondary offense than defense though, giving the nod to Barbosa.

Once Eric Bledsoe comes back from his knee sprain - be it Monday or weeks later, depending on the healing process - the Suns can close out their playoff run with a veteran rotation guard around young Eric Bledsoe in Dragic (28), Green (28) and Barbosa (31).

If the Suns were floundering toward a high lotto pick, then playing Goodwin over Barbosa would be a no-brainer. Barbosa never would have been signed, even in the wake of Bledsoe injury.

But a playoff run is in sight, and playoffs runs need consistent play up and down the roster.

Playoff run needs vets

Coming into the season, the Phoenix Suns had the league's second most inexperienced roster.

The Suns 13-man active roster had produced only TWO individual seasons of 30+ minutes per game. Channing Frye averaged 30+ minutes in one of eight NBA seasons (2010-11) and Goran Dragic had played 30+ minutes just once in five NBA seasons (2012-13).

That's it. Two.

Leandro Barbosa makes it three. Barbosa, like the rest of the team, has spent his entire career as a backup player but he did average 32 minutes per game in 2006-07.

You take what you can get.

Sure this team was built to spotlight under-25 youth like Eric Bledsoe, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Archie Goodwin and Alex Len while waiting to add a few more youths in the talent-rich 2014 Draft. All but Len have been mainstays in the rotation, with Len's only issue being injury.

But Coach Hornacek is clearly playing to win by giving significant minutes to four players at least 27 years old (Frye, Dragic, Green and Tucker). He has been playing his youth, but the veterans are providing the necessary consistency to win the games. And it's working.

Now, with Barbosa in the fold, look for the Suns "rotation age" to go older yet. Barbosa, at 31, is now the sage veteran on the team. For those of us who watched Barbosa's career, it's crazy to think he's the oldest guy on ANY team.

Youth can be served next year when the Suns will be in even better position to use the youth factor. Len and Goodwin will be a year older, yet only Len will be old enough to buy alcohol. And, the Suns will bring in at least one first round draft pick, if not 2 or 3.

Swapping one rookie for another?

Speaking of Alex Len, all of 20 years old himself, it appears he may be ready for a rotation role just as Archie Goodwin is losing his. Len took the court the last two nights looking tall and talented, if also raw and gangly. He's easily the biggest player on the team and can help fortify the second unit while Plumlee rests.

For only the third time all season, Len appeared in both the first and second halves of a game last night. He grabbed five rebounds (4 on the offensive end) in only 12 minutes of play, a welcome sight for a team that ranks 21st in total rebounds.

We will see over the coming days if his ankle can handle the punishment. Twice before, Len has played in consecutive games, only to be shut down afterward due to ankle pain.


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...

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