MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker), Dec. 26 -- Phoenix Suns coach Mike D'Antoni may have second thoughts about not starting Boris Diaw again.

After a one-game absence from the starting lineup, Diaw made an impressive return to it by scoring 15 of his career-high 31 points in the third quarter to lead the Suns to a 103-89 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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The primary replacement when Joe Johnson signed with the Atlanta Hawks this offseason, Diaw has shared starting duties with James Jones, who got the start in Friday's 112-111 loss at Washington.

"Some games I'm going to start, some I going to come off the bench," Diaw said. "I'll do whatever the team needs. It's all about matchups."

Making his 16th start Monday, Diaw made his pitch for more minutes. He shot 11-of-16 from the floor, made all nine of his free throws and grabbed 11 rebounds.

"Diaw took advantage of some mismatches," Timberwolves superstar forward Kevin Garnett said. "He got some early buckets, got his confidence going and never looked back. He was the X-factor in this game."

Diaw had 10 points, Steve Nash 14 and Shawn Marion 11 as Phoenix grabbed a 45-42 halftime lead. Diaw scored nine points in a 13-0 surge to start the third quarter and Jones helped the Suns hold off a fourth-quarter rally.

The Timberwolves scored the first seven points of the period to get within 80-77, but Jones made two 3-pointers and Eddie House added one from the arc in another 13-0 burst that opened it up.

"We got back in the game, but they made a ridiculous run," Garnett said. "They get on the break and let the threes go. They want to get up and down, make the tempo very fast and upbeat and then just try to outscore you. They were on fire tonight, it seems like they hit everything they shot."

Phoenix shot 52 percent (40-of-77) from the floor and had 26 assists against 14 turnovers. It made 6-of-18 3-pointers, but most of them at critical times.

"One thing that hurt us tonight was our transition defense," said Minnesota coach Dwane Casey. "They were playing a small lineup and we didn't recognize that they were coming down and looking for the 3-point line. If you're not ready to get back in transition, it's going to be a long night. We saw the best of Phoenix tonight."

The Suns claimed a 13-0 advantage in fast-break points.

Nash finished with 24 points and 12 assists and Marion had 21 points and 16 boards, all on the defensive end. But Diaw was the focus of the postgame talk.

"Our team is built with a lot of balance so anybody can have a night like (Diaw) did," said Raja Bell, who scored 10 points. "Boris played awesome tonight. Tomorrow it might be Jones or House. Guys are taking the opportunity while Amare (Stoudemire) is out to chip in and help us win games."

Stoudemire, who led the team with 26.0 points per game last season, is out until February following left knee surgery.

Wally Szczerbiak scored 27 points and Garnett added 26 and 19 rebounds but Minnesota was unable to bounce back from a loss here to Portland on Friday.

"I'm sure every team in the league goes through what we're going through," Garnett said. "It's no different for us. The morale is not down, but we're trying to figure it out. ... I hate losing. I haven't really slept very well. It's good I got decent skin or you'd see all these bags under by eyes. It's not a good feeling right now. I'm eager to get a winning streak going."

Since a five-game winning streak to start the month, the Timberwolves are 1-6. They have not reached 100 points in 11 straight games.