GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Suns - Dec. 29, 2012




Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Final: Huge defensive play by Dante Cunningham sealed the win for Minnesota. On the inbound with 7.7 left, Cunningham came up with the steal and hit 1-of-2 free throws from the line. The Suns were unable to connect on their last attempts, and the Wolves improved to 14-13 on the season.

Be sure to check in at Timberwolves.com throughout the night for postgame analysis, interviews, highlights and photos. MIN 111, PHX 107

Q4 8.1: Shved was fouled and hit 1-of-2 from the line. It's 110-107 with 8.1 left. Suns ball. MIN 110, PHX 107

Q4 8.7: Luis Scola nearly scored and drew the foul a moment ago, but the basket didn't fall and he went 1-of-2 from the line. Wolves ball up 109-107 with 8.7 left. MIN 109, PHX 107

Q4 55.3: The Wolves just picked up a big defensive stop, sent the ball in transition the other way and Alexey Shved was fouled and sent to the line. Shved hit both free throws to put the Wolves up 3 with 55.3 left. Shved has 11 points and 10 assists tonight. MIN 109, PHX 106

Q4 2:00: Pekovic is making a big difference here in this fourth quarter. He has 26 points and 11 rebounds on the night, and he just scored four straight points for the Wolves before Luke Ridnour connected on a long 2 from the baseline that put the Wolves up 105-104. We've got two minutes left, and its' been back and forth offensively all game. Should be a good finish at Target Center. Key will be free throws. Minnesota is 12-of-20 tonight, while Phoenix is 14-of-22 from the line. MIN 105, PHX 104

Q4 5:43: Both teams are picking up the pace right now in this one-point game. Each is running up and down the floor, and the Wolves just caught a break as JJ Barea drew a charge on PJ Tucker. MInnesota's ball. PHX 98, MIN 97

Q4 8:37: This one appears to be tight all the way to the end. Markieff Morris scored and drew the foul a moment ago, and he'll go to the line down 94-92. If you'd like a Beasley update, he's currently 1-for-8 with two points in nine minutes of play, and his lone field goal was a goaltend early in the second quarter. Sebastian Telfair is 0-for-6 with three boards and two assists, and Wes Johnson is currently a DNP-CD. MIN 94, PHX 92

End Q3: The Wolves are up 89-88 after 3 in a defensive battle at Target Center. OK, that's not exactly the case. Minnesota is shooting 52 percent from the field and Phoenix is shooting at a 49 percent clip. The Wolves took the lead thanks to a long heave from JJ Barea that fell short as time expired in the third, but Andrei Kirilenko picked it out of midair and dunked it for two. Looked a lot like the last-second score by NC State in the 1983 national championship game. Also, Barea picked up a technical at the end of the quarter and the Suns converted to cut the Wolves' lead to 1. Minnesota opens up 4th with Barea, Shved, D-Will, Cunningham and Love on the floor. MIN 89, PHX 88

Q3 3:11: The Suns are putting together a third quarter run that is all too familiar for the Timberwolves, as the same thing happened on Wednesday against the Rockets. Phoenix is on a 16-8 run right now and have turned the Wolves' once nine-point lead into a one-point advantage with 3:11 left in the third. Minnesota is one of the best teams in the league statistically at getting to the line, but they are just 4-of-7 from the stripe tonight. MIN 80, PHX 79

Q3 8:13: Minnesota starts out the second half where it left off in the second quarter, and they've opened up their biggest lead of the night at 72-63. They're beginning to create an advantage in the paint, and they hold a 40-30 lead in that category tonight. They're doing it tonight without a single point in transition. Pek still leads the team with 19 points, K-Love has 17 and AK has 14. AK, by the way, is 7-of-9 from the field and the only two baskets he's missed were a slam dunk in the first half and a lay-in a few minutes ago. MIN 72, PHX 63

Halftime: The Wolves are up 64-58 at the half thanks to 57 percent shooting and a solid effort across the board offensively. Nikola Pekovic has 17 points, Kevin Love has 15 points and 12 rebounds, Andrei Kirilenko has 12 points and Derrick Williams has 10 points off the bench. For Phoenix, Luis Scola leads the team with 16 points, Goran Dragic has 11 and Shannon Brown has 10. MIN 64, PHX 58

Q2 2:07: The Wolves have led by as many as seven tonight, but Phoenix fought back and tied the game at 54-54 before the Wolves put together a couple of stops and re-took a four-point lead with two minutes left in the half. After JJ Barea drove and scored on a reverse lay-up, Nikola Pekovic corralled another offensive rebound (he has three tonight) and found Kirilenko for the aggressive slam. MIN 58, PHX 54

Q2 5:37: The Wolves are holding onto a four-point lead but the Suns are hanging around. The biggest reason why Phoenix is holding on despite the Wolves shooting better than 60 percent from the field is because they're winning the turnover game and are capitalizing in transition. Phoenix has just one turnover tonight compared to the Wolves' seven, and they have an 8-0 advantage in fast break points. Still, the Wolves are putting together and efficient night offensively, shooting 61 percent, and they're getting big production from Love and Derrick Williams. The two have combined to shoot 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Both were spending extensive time after shootaround today working on their 3-point stroke, and it's paying off so far tonight. MIN 48, PHX 44

End Q1: After the first quarter, it's apparent Kevin Love is on a mission tonight. He's already 5-of-8 with 13 points, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range, and he's coupling that with five rebounds. If he keeps this pace, he should have a monster night. Meanwhile, it's been all Love, Kirilenko and Pek. AK has 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting, and Pek has nine points on 4-of-5 shooting tonight. Alexey Shved already has five assists. For the Suns, only Markieff Morris has made it off the bench in the first, but Michael Beasley looks like Michael Beasley is making his first appearance of the night to start the second. MIN 32, PHX 29

Q1 2:59: The Timberwolves continue to shoot excellent from the field. They're connecting on an 11-for-15 clip right now. But the Suns are hanging right with them because they've yet to turn the ball over. Minnesota has three turnovers that have led to five Suns points, and it's a three-point lead late in the first. For the record, no playing time for Michael Beasley, Wes Johnson or Sebastian Telfair yet off the Suns bench. MIN 24, PHX 17

Q1 7:10: Fast start offensively for the Wolves here in the first quarter. Minnesota is shooting 8-of-11 tonight from the field and is getting some high percentage shots in the paint thanks to the early play of Nikola Pekovic. Pek already is 3-of-4 tonight, and he and Andrei Kirilenko are leading all scorers with six points tonight. Alexey Shved has three assists in the first five minutes, and Love has three rebounds and four points on 2-of-3 shooting. He's been working extensively the last few days since a tough shooting outing against Houston, and I'm expecting a bounce-back game from him tonight. MIN 16, PHX 9

Pregame 7:10 PM: Tonight's starting lineups:

Suns: PG-Goran Dragic, SG-Shannon Brown, SF-Jared Dudley, PF-Luis Scola, C-Marcin Gortat

Wolves: PG-Luke Ridnour, SG-Alexey Shved, SF-Andrei Kirilenko, PF-Kevin Love, C-Nikola Pekovic

Pregame 7:00 PM: It's starting to seem like it's not a Wolves game if there isn't some sort of injury-related pregame news. Tonight Ricky Rubio will not play due to back spasms. The Wolves will be down to three guards this evening against the Suns, so it should be interesting how Adelman attempts to use his rotation.

Pregame 6:45 PM: Brandon Roy released a statement through the team tonight regarding a setback he suffered recently while practicing. Here is Roy's statement:

"Last week while practicing, I suffered a setback in my recovery. I’ve felt better since the recent surgery, but I am not all the way better. The past two days I have been weighing all of my options as I try to continue my basketball career. I have decided to explore additional treatment options and an extensive rehabilitation plan. My goal has been, and continues to be, to return to the basketball court as healthy as possible in order to help our team. "

Kahn said Roy was practicing last week when he first felt the discomfort. He said Roy isn't planning on doing a new surgical procedure, but he's looking to feel like he did while he was competing during the preseason.

"The other day he visited with a doctor," Kahn said. "He's hopeful that something can be done that proves to be beneficial. He's at a point where he'd like to try. That's what he's been considering over the last few days."

Kahn said he's hoping to know how this run at his recovery will go in three to four weeks. Kahn also said the two had a lengthy conversation yesterday but spoke today in person. He said Roy was contemplating all of his options moving forward.

Pregame 6:30 PM: Suns coach Alvin Gentry said the biggest thing Phoenix is addressing when preparing for the Wolves tonight is taking care of the basketball. Like Minnesota, the Suns have lost a lot of games late in the fourth this season, and being able to minimize mistakes can go a long way in putting themselves in position to win late in ballgames.

He said closing out games is something that comes with learning. In the Suns' case, he said his team has had opportunities that they haven't taken advantage of.

"You have to make the offensive play, you got to make the defensive play, and when you are in a close game like we're talking about, it's usually one or two possessions that decide, you know, one or two on offense or defense that really decide the game," Gentry said. "We just have not been able to make those plays."

Pregame 3:45 PM: Welcome to Target Center and the final Timberwolves game of 2012. Their next matchup is Jan. 2 on the road against Utah, and heading into a stretch of three straight games against divisional opponents in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race the Wolves want nothing more than to get a victory tonight against the Phoenix Suns.

This Phoenix club has a few familiar faces to this Timberwolves organization—including Michael Beasley, Wes Johnson and Sebastian Telfair—but beyond that the Suns have gone through a significant makeover this offseason. Gone is two-time MVP Steve Nash, as well as veteran Grant Hill and big man Robin Lopez. Channing Frye is lost for the season. In their place, guard Goran Dragic and forward Luis Scola joined the club in the offseason. Marcin Gortat is having himself a solid season, averaging 11.4 points and 8.5 boards per game, and Dragic has been the team’s top scorer and playmaker (14.1 PPG, 6.2 APG).

But Dragic is questionable tonight due to an injury he suffered earlier this week, and that could change the complexity of the Suns’ attack. Shannon Brown (12.9 PPG) and Jared Dudley (11.8 PPG) have been key contributors, and they’ll be important to the Suns’ success tonight if Dragic doesn’t play. Wolves forward Kevin Love said at shootaround this morning that the Wolves must control the paint against this Phoenix club.

“If you break it down to a 2, 3, 4 minute game, they can give you trouble,” Love said. “They can knock down shots, they can run up and down, they have solid players inside and out that can really light it up. In that regard, we have to push it on them early. If we can run on them and beat them down in the post, we will give them a tough night.”

Love also acknowledged it will be the first time he’s faced Beasley in three years. Beasley is averaging 10.4 points per game and is shooting 37.9 percent from the field—the worst field goal percentage of his career. He has started 20 games for Phoenix, but in recent games he has been replaced in the starting lineup by Jared Dudley.

“[Facing Beasley] will be fun,” Love said. “We were rivals throughout high school, and it's always fun to play against him. I'm looking forward to it.”

Remember tonight’s game is on My29 and 830 WCCO-AM. Stay tuned right here for pregame news and notes as well as a live blog throughout tonight’s game.

Here are some pregame notes leading into tonight’s Timberwolves vs. Suns matchup:

  • The Wolves trail in the series, 28-59, and are 16-26 at home. The Suns have won 10 of the last 11 games in the series and the last six played at Target Center. The Wolves last home win was a 117-107 victory on Jan. 23, 2008.


  • If the Wolves win tonight to go to 14-13, it will be their best start since compiling a 14-13 mark in 2005-06. The Wolves are 6-5 this month, and looking for their first winning December since going 8-6 in 2004; a win tonight would result in their third-best percentage ever for December (11-2 in 2003, 10-5 in 2001).


  • Minnesota has recorded 11 double-digit rebounding margins this season -- they had 10 in 2011-12. The Wolves lead the NBA in rebounding differential at +5.73 per game.


  • The Wolves rank 6th in the NBA in free throw attempts per game (25.5) and have allowed the 2nd fewest free throw attempts (19.8). Minnesota has attempted 30+ FTs in a game 10 times this season and allowed less than 20 FTs in a game 13 times.


  • Nikola Pekovic is averaging 19.8 ppg, on 52.0% shooting, and 10.4 rpg over the last eight games. He has recorded a double-double in four of his last five games (8 for the season).


  • J.J. Barea has scored in double-digits the last 12 games, averaging 13.1 points, on 45.5% shooting, and 4.5 assists over that stretch.


  • Alexey Shved has started the last seven games, averaging 6.6 assists over that stretch. He ranks 2nd among rookies in assists (4.4) and 5th in scoring (10.8).


  • Andrei Kirilenko needs 2 steals to reach 1,000 for his career, 11 rebounds for 4,000 and 12 assists for 2,000.


  • The Suns have lost its last four games. Prior to that they had a four-game winning streak that followed a seven-game losing streak. Phoenix is 2-12 on the road this year, losing its last seven road contests. Phoenix is 0-5 on the road against Western Conference teams.


  • Phoenix has had a league-high nine games decided by three points or fewer (4-5 record). The teams four wins in those games is tied for best in the NBA.


  • Phoenix is allowing its opponents to shoot 46.9% from the field, the second-worst FG% allowed, including an NBA-worst 40.8% from three-point range.


  • Goran Dragic has scored in double digits in 23 of 28 games this season, including a team-high five games of 20+ points. He has swiped multiple steals in 17 games.


  • Jared Dudley is averaging 19.4 points, on .537 shooting, over the last seven games, including four games of 20+ points.



  • For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com.