THE FACTS: The Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Phoenix Suns 111-107 despite a less than spectacular performance. The Wolves (14-13) missed a lot of easy looks around the basket and some free throws, but their front court gave them a huge lift in a very physical, closely fought game. Minnesota's starting frontcourt of Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, and Andrei Kirklenko scored 71 points and shot 31-for-53 (57.4 percent) from the floor.
Dante Cunningham didn't make a field goal and only scored two points for Minnesota, but his tough defense down the stretch was crucial to the team's victory. After having Luis Scola score with ease on just about everybody guarding him, Wolves' coach Rick Adelman called on Cunningham in the final minute. Cunningham forced Scola into a couple of awkward shots and intercepted an inbounds pass with 7.6 seconds left. After being fouled, his made free throw with 5.6 seconds remaining made it a two possession game.
Last year, Scola and Love got in a scuffle that ending in Scola having his face stepped on. Tonight, Scola did his best to return the favor by dropping 33 points on the Wolves (16-for-26). Goran Dragic added 16 points and 12 assists for the Suns (11-20) in the losing effort.
QUOTABLE: "It was a good win. [Phoenix] was really good -- efficient offensively; assists, turnovers, everything. We needed to make some stops and we did a really good job when we were up three at the end there, as far as switching and making it tough on them to get the ball in. Eventually, we got a steal. We just have to find a way to finish things at the basket and free-throw line. It would make for a lot easier game."
-- Minnesota coach Rick Adelman
THE STAT: Minnesota shot 50.6 percent from the floor but only 61.5 percent of their free throws. Phoenix shot a respectable 46.4 percent, but they were only 2-for-17 from beyond the arc.
TURNING POINT: Alexey Shved went 1-for-2 on free throws with 8.1 seconds in the game to give Minnesota a 110-107 lead. After a timeout, Phoenix ran a play for Dragic and Minnesota switched on the pick and forced Jared Dudley into a tough inbounds pass which Cunningham intercepted.
QUOTABLE II: "These moral victories, or whatever you want to call them, don't do anything. Because, at the end of the da,y that either put it on the right side or the left side [in the win-loss column]. And these games, so far, the majority have gone on the right side. And that's not a good thing for us."
-- Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry
GOOD MOVE: Minnesota refused to offer Michael Beasley a contract before the season, allowing him to become a free agent. In nine minutes, he scored two points on 1-for-8 shooting.
BAD MOVE: Phoenix did offer Beasley a contract.
ROOKIE WATCH: Shved continues to impress. He scored 12 points, dished 10 assists and grabbed four rebounds. Since being put in the starting lineup, Shved has averaged 6.6 assists per game and he has led the Wolves in assists six times, including tonight.
NOTABLE: Minnesota is 6-5 in the month of December and is looking for its first winning December since going 8-6 in 2004. ... Love's up-and-down season is typified by his stat-line in his last three games: 28 points, 11 rebounds, seven points on 3-for-14 shooting, and (tonight) 23 points and 18 rebounds.
UP NEXT: For the Wolves, Wednesday @ Utah, Thursday @ Denver, Saturday vs. Portland. For the Suns, Monday @ Oklahoma City, Wednesday vs. Philadelphia, Friday vs. Utah.