Newsroom Notes: Suns Edged by Wolves in Offensive Outpouring

By Stefan Swiat,
Posted: March 12, 2012

The Suns and the Wolves both came into Monday’s contest nipping at Houston’s heels for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Minnesota stood just one game behind the Rockets, while the Suns were only two games out. However, with a chance to force overtime in the final minute, the Suns fell short, dropping a 127-124 decision to the visiting Wolves.
Suns shooting guard Jared Dudley’s attempt to tie with a three-pointer with 17 ticks left rimmed in and out, allowing the Wolves to hold on for the victory.

“It was probably the best look I had all night,” Dudley said. “Grant Hill set the perfect screen, (making) my guy fall on the ground. I shot it and thought the ball was good and it was halfway in.”

However, Dudley powered the Suns’ highest offensive output of the season by scoring a season-high 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting. It was the first time the Suns had fallen all season when Dudley had scored 20 or more.

“The crazy thing about it with how poorly we played defensively, we probably played our best game offensively this year and had chances,” Dudley said.

The loss was the first notable hiccup in a post-All-Star tear that has featured wins over the Clippers, Lakers and Grizzlies. The Suns came into Monday having won five in a row at home, seven out of their last nine games and nine straight over the Wolves.

However, the Wolves shot 56 percent from the floor, 64 percent from behind the arc and outscored the Suns by 14 in the paint.

“We just have to do a better job of understanding what happens in rotations,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “We can’t let Kevin Love catch the ball and shoot nine threes without ever putting it down. That’s a little bit disappointing.”

Love led Minnesota’s attack with 30 points, while Nikola Pekovic scored 24. The 127 points was also a season high for the Wolves.

For Phoenix, Steve Nash poured in 25 points and 10 assists, notching his sixth 20-point, 10-assist game of the season. Channing Frye (18 points) and Grant Hill (10) rounded out the other Suns starters in double figures.

Providing a nice lift in the second half were the Suns’ reserves, contributing 14 of their 35 points in the fourth period. Shannon Brown (11 points), Robin Lopez (10) and Sebastian Telfair (10) all produced double-digit scoring efforts off the bench.

The Suns are now three games behind the Rockets in the win column and two behind in the loss column. Phoenix will get its crack at Houston on Sunday at US Airways Center, but not before it hosts the Jazz on Wednesday at US Airways Center.

Third-Quarter Dominance

Coming into Monday’s contest against the Wolves, the Suns had won seven consecutive third quarters, having not lost a third period since February 19 against the Lakers, a game in which they led by over 20 at the half. The Suns have not allowed a single home opponent to shoot better than 40 percent in the second half since the All-Star break.

“It’s important to establish yourself or re-establish yourself in those first five minutes,” Gentry said. “We’ve also come up with a couple of easy baskets here and there at the start of the third quarter which I think has been really important. To me, the first five minutes of the third quarter is almost like the first five minutes of the game in that it sets the tone.”

If you’re not buying Gentry’s explanation for their third-quarter success, you could also consider his alternative theory.

“It’s been due to the great halftime speeches given by the coach,” he said kiddingly.

The Suns outscored the Wolves 34-29 in the third period on Monday.

The Polish Hammer

After the Polish Heritage Night on Saturday, Suns center and Polish icon Marcin Gortat went out to dinner with special guest Anita Włodarczyk, a Polish Olympian and former world-record holder in the hammer throw.

It was ironic that Gortat, known as the “Polish Hammer,” went to dinner with an expert in the hammer throw. Despite learning some interesting pointers about training, Gorat joked that he wouldn’t be following her regimen anytime soon.

“It’s way too boring,” he said laughing. “In basketball we can work on shooting, passing, lifting, all sorts of things. With her, it was just throwing.”

Wlodarczyk, who currently trains in L.A., will go for the gold at the Olympics in London this summer

Any questions or comments for Stefan Swiat? Click here to send him your comments by e-mail.