Notebook: Suns 84, Timberwolves 83



Posted Feb 27, 2013 1:53 AM

Mike Tulumello, for NBA.com

THE FACTS: The once high-octane Phoenix Suns don't have much firepower these days. But they can at least field a full roster of NBA players, something that seems beyond the reach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Even so, the Suns had barely enough to squeak past the undermanned Timberwolves 84-83 in overtime in Phoenix Tuesday night.

Wolves forward Andrei Kirilenko lasted only 10 minutes before he had to leave with a strained left calf. He joined the already injured Kevin Love, Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger and Malcolm Lee.

The Suns (19-39) led throughout overtime and much of regulation. They were even up 18 points, 47-29 late in the first half. Yet both in regulation and overtime, the Wolves (20-34) had a chance in the closing seconds.

In overtime, the Suns stripped Derrick Wiliiams of the ball on a drive to the basket, leading to a fast break by P.J. Tucker and an 82-78 lead. Then the Wolves' J.J. Barea and the Suns' Marcin Gortat traded driving layups as the Suns maintained an 84-80 lead.

Williams hit a 3-pointer to draw the Wolves to 84-83 with 31 seconds left. Wesley Johnson's driving shot was blocked by Nikola Pekovic. The Wolves missed their final chance to win when Alexey Shved's driving layup rolled off the rim.

The Suns got 14 points and nine rebounds from reserve Markieff Morris, 14 points and seven rebounds from Gortat and 10 points and 13 boards from backup Jermaine O'Neal.

But the surprise was backup small forward Johnson, drafted No. 4 overall by the Wolves in 2010, who has been dusted off by the Suns in recent games after seldom playing.

He had 14 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals. He also covered guards when the Wolves went with a small lineup.

"You want those minutes, especially at the end of the game," said Johnson, who played 36 minutes. "I've been anxious to play the whole season. ... I've been given the opportunity. It's up to me to take advantage."

"He was great at both ends of the floor," Suns coach Lindsey Hunter said. "He had to guard a point guard ... and he rebounded really well. I hope this can continue to catapult him into growing as a player."

The Suns led throughout regulation, but the Wolves clawed back attacking the weak interior defense of Gortat and Morris. Then Barea hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 71 with 4:25 left.

Two possessions seemed to doom the Suns. They failed to get off a shot coming out of timeout, with Morris getting stripped of the ball. That led to a fast break and 3-point play by Dante Cunningham and a 76-75 Minnesota lead.

Then, in the final minute, Goran Dragic passed up an open shot and turned the ball over. At the other end, Ricky Rubio hit only 1-for-2 at the line for a 77-75 lead. Gortat hit a runner in the lane with 13.6 seconds left. Rubio missed a jumper and the game went to overtime.

Williams led the Wolves with 21 points and 12 boards. Pekovic had 18 points and 12 rebounds. Barea came off the bench to add 17 points.

"We're going to have to learn how to make plays," said Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman.

QUOTABLE: "With his length and athleticism, he can guard at a lot of positions. We'll continue to push him, and hopefully, he responds."

-- Hunter on Johnson

THE STAT: The Suns won a tight game despite shooting 5-for-14 from the line. Outside of Gortat's 4-for-6, they shot 1-for-8.

TURNING POINT: When Shved's driving layup rolled off the rim with three seconds left in overtime.

QUOTABLE II: "Yes, I can!"

-- Hunter, asked if he can tell quickly whether his players are engaged in a game

HOT: Nobody.

NOT: The Wolves shot an anemic 34 percent, including 26 percent on 3-pointers. They also missed 9 of 25 free throws.

FANTASY SPOTLIGHT: Michael Beasley's erratic season continues for the Suns. He had a notable upswing after Hunter took over as coach for Alvin Gentry. But he's hit bottom again. The past five games, he's averaged just 4.2 points on 29 percent shooting. He barely played in a loss Sunday night to the Spurs.

The Wolves' Williams, generally a disappointment after being picked No. 2 overall two years ago, is on a roll. Over the past nine games, he's averaging 16.7 points plus 8.7 rebounds.

ROOKIE WATCH: For Minnesota, Shved shot 2-for-9 for five points with one assist in 23 minutes, while the Suns' Kendall Marshall shot 1-for-3 for two points with four assists in 12 minutes.

NOTABLE: In an oddity, the Suns became the first team to win an overtime game with 84 or fewer points since the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets downed Orlando 84-78 on Jan. 16, 2007.

UP NEXT: For the Timberwolves, Thursday @ L.A. Lakers, Saturday @ Portland, Monday vs. Miami. For the Suns, Wednesday @ San Antonio, Friday vs. Atlanta, Wednesday vs. Toronto.