THE FACTS: In a game between two teams whose playoff ambitions ended shortly after the Christmas present were opened, the Minnesota Timberwolves took a nice step toward closing out a frustrating season in a positive manner, defeating the Phoenix Suns 105-93. Minnesota did not shoot as well as Phoenix and, with their starting center, Nikola Pekovic out with a calf contusion, they were outrebounded by Phoenix. But they took care of the ball and forced Phoenix into turnover after turnover. The Suns opened an early lead with an 11-0 first quarter run, but their inability to hold on to the ball allow Minnesota to whittle that lead down. Ricky Rubio led the way for Minnesota, filling up the stat sheet, as he has done of late. He finished with 24 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, and five steals. J.J. Barea came off the bench for Minnesota and scored his points in bunches at key times in the game. Markieff Morris had 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting (3-for-4 from beyond the arc) to go with nine rebounds. But he and his front court partner, Luis Scola together accounted for 12 of Phoenix's turnovers.
QUOTABLE: "We had a pretty good handle on the game until we started to turn the ball over. When you give the other team easy baskets, it gives them confidence and that's what happened. ... I think it's a combination of trying to be too fancy and trying to make passes that are too high risk. You have to make the simple play. If you make the right play every time, the spectacular tends to happen. If you try to make the spectacular play, you turn the ball over."
-- Phoenix coach Lindsey Hunter.
THE STAT: Turnovers by Phoenix and steals by Minnesota. Minnesota's 17 steals is a season high and ties a franchise high for them. Phoenix turned the ball over 28 times, tying the most for a Minnesota opponent this season. Ironically, Phoenix season low for turnovers came at Target Center as well, when they only gave up the ball five times on December 29. Minnesota has had fewer turnovers than their opponent in 22 of their last 28 games. And they have only had more turnovers in three of those 28 games.
TURNING POINT: After trailing for most of the game, Minnesota built their first lead with an 11-2 run in the closing minutes of the third quarter. And then when the Suns cut that lead to six with 4:26 to play, Rick Adelman called a timeout, gave his team a good talking to and settled them down. Minnesota responded with a baskets on four straight offensive possessions and steals or forced turnovers on three straight defensive sets. The result was a 13 point lead with less than two minutes to play and a comfortable victory for Minnesota.
QUOTABLE II: "We shot the ball well; made some big plays. We got banged up due to our [lack of] size a little bit but for the most part we were able to score and keep the lead."
-- Minnesota coach Rick Adelman.
GOOD MOVE: With Pekovic out with a left calf contusion, Adelman didn't have many options, so he decided to start a small lineup. "We almost have to [go small]," said Adelman. "We don't have any bigs except for Greg (Stiemsma) and they come in with (Jermaine) O'Neal ... and Greg is the one guy that can guard him." The decision worked. While the Suns built a rebounding advantage in the first half, Minnesota whittled that down a good bit in the second. And the quickness of Minnesota's small lineup was too much for Phoenix for much of the night.
BAD MOVE: Derrick Williams was the recipient of a beautiful first quarter pass from Rubio, was wide open in the lane, and elevated for a powerful one-handed dunk. But he fumbled it the in the air in mid-dunk and ended up throwing it off the back rim right and triggering a Suns fast break that ended with a 19' jumpshot by P. J. Tucker, capping an 11-0 run and giving Phoenix an early eight point lead.
QUOTABLE III: "We had so many high hopes for this season. But more than anything it's about getting everybody healthy, myself included. This summer is a big summer for us, big summer for myself included. Hopefully in a month I will have a clean bill of health and I'll be ready to go. I'm definitely looking forward to that. I know that this team is hungry, and I'm hungry myself."
-- Minnesota forward Kevin Love.
NOTABLE: Prior to the game, Minnesota owner Glen Taylor presented coach Adelman with the basketball net from his 1,000th victory, which occurred on April 6 in the Wolves 107-101 win over Detroit .. With a record of 24-56, Phoenix will finish with their worst record since the team's inaugural season in 1968-69 when the team went 16-66.
UP NEXT: For the Wolves, Monday vs. Utah, Wednesday @ San Antonio. For the Suns, Monday vs. Houston, Wednesday @ Denver.