GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves vs. Suns | Jan. 8, 2014

GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves vs. Suns | Jan. 8, 2014





Final: That's the ballgame. The Suns snag a 104-103 win as K-Mart missed from about 5 feet driving to the hoop as time expired. More to come on Timberwolves.com postgame, so stay tuned. PHX 104, MIN 103

Q4 3.9: Green hits from the corner, puts Suns up 104-103. PHX 104, MIN 103

Q4 16.4: Rubio turned the ball over driving to the hoop, and the Suns have the ball with 16.4 left on the clock and 15 left on the shot clock. MIN 103, PHX 102

Q4 40.1: The Suns picked up a turnover, leading to a trip to the line for Markieff Morris. He hit 1-of-2, cutting the Wolves lead to 103-102. Wolves call timeout and Adelman draws up the play. MIN 103, PHX 102

Q4 2:01: Yep, the Wolves continue to go inside to Pek. It's working, too, as Pek is either hitting his shots or getting to the line and hitting his free throws. He also just forced Miles Plumlee to pick up his sixth foul. MIN 102, PHX 97

Q4 2:49: Here we go, folks. The Wolves have a 100-95 lead with 2:49 to play. Crunch time against a current playoff team. Minnesota needs to lock down here and be able to sustain any runs Phoenix sends its way. Love is having a tough night, but he's still got 15 points and 12 boards and is a perfect 6-of-6 from the line. That's a big night for most players in the league, but of course we've gotten so used to Love's 30 & 15 stat lines that it does change our perception. The big key is his 4-of-19 shooting. But Pek and Brewer have really stepped up this half and have given Minnesota great energy. The Wolves have a 42-26 advantage in the paint--let's see if they go back inside on their upcoming possessions down the stretch. MIN 100, PHX 95

Q4 5:13: Pek is working hard inside tonight in this second half. He's got six points this quarter alone, and his latest basket inside put Minnesota up 93-88 with 5:13 to play. Brewer also hit a long jumper from the corner and did a Rick Flair strut coming back to play defense. #Woooooo. MIN 93, PHX 88

Q4 9:01: The Wolves are being active here defensively. They're not necessarily creating turnovers, but they're getting in the Suns' faces and being proactive. Ronny Turiaf is definitely part of that equation, and Chase Budinger helped force a turnover immediately after entering the game moments ago. The Wolves lead by six with nine minutes to play, and we're in for a pretty good finish here tonight on national television. MIN 82, PHX 76

End Q3: Love just hit a nice 3 from the wing after stepping out and draining a wide-open look. Phoenix somehow let him catch it in the post, move out to the line and let it fly without covering him. He's still having a rough night (4-of-17), but that 3-pointer was key in giving the Wolves a five-point lead heading into the fourth. Martin has 20 points to lead the team, while Frye has 20 for the Suns. Phoenix really cooled off that quarter and is now shooting 36.6 percent from the field compared to 37.7 for Minnesota. MIN 77, PHX 72

Q3 2:47: It appears both teams have fought through some of their rough spots, and we're in for a pretty good finish to the final 15 minutes of this one. The Wolves and Suns are tied 69-69, and Minnesota is finding its best success in the paint and crashing the offensive boards in this period. Also, a good sign that Minnesota is 17-of-18 from the free-throw line tonight. The Suns are 11-of-14. MIN 69, PHX 69

Q3 4:47: The Wolves tied this game up thanks to much more efficient shooting here in the third quarter--they are 7-of-13 this half. K-Mart is up to 20, he's 6-of-10 from the field. Meanwhile Love is one rebound away from a double-double despite 3-of-16 shooting from the field. The Wolves have a 12-4 advantage in the paint through seven minutes in in the third. MIN 63, PHX 63

Halftime: Minnesota shot 32.6 percent in the half, including 1-of-8 from Pek and 2-of-12 from Love, yet they still trail by just six at the break. That's a tiny victory in itself. The Wolves' starters haven't looked sharp aside from Martin, who has 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting. But the bench, led by Barea (3-of-5, 8 pts) and Budinger (2-of-3, 5 points) has been a bright spot. The Wolves do need to find a way to keep Frye from getting those open looks from the 3-point line. He's 4-of-6 from deep and is 5-of-8 overall with 15 points. Dragic has 12, and he just drew Love into his third foul of the night on one of his pump-fakes late in the second. Lots of game left here, but the Wolves do need to find their stroke offensively to keep in this game. The third quarter will be big, and Minnesota will need to jump into this one and try to get Love and Pek going. They are too good to struggle for long, but their offensive is needed over the final 24 minutes. PHX 53, MIN 47

Q2 3:14: A couple of interesting plays over the last minute: One, DC got called for a foul, but the replay on the scoreboard confirmed he was nowhere near any Suns players when the foul was called. Phoenix hit 1-of-2 shots there. Later, the Wolves picked up two straight blocks on the same possession from DC and Pek to keep the Suns from scoring. Nice to see that rim protection from both guys here in the first half. PHX 41, MIN 40

Q2 5:44: Budinger just had another nice drive to the hoop for a layup. He's got five points off the bench himself (the Wolves have 20 reserve points overall), which is noteworthy since the Wolves did have two games last week in which the bench scored just five total points. Turiaf had a tip-in basket moments ago, too. He's got three boards and two assists in seven minutes on the floor. It's obviously a small sample size, but I think we're seeing right away what the Wolves' bench was missing with these two injured. MIN 39, PHX 38

Q2 7:32: Minnesota is hanging around here down just one despite shooting 12-of-35 from the field. Barea has come in and provided a little offensive spark--he's 3-of-4 from the field with eight points. Shved has five, and Budinger has a 3-pointer off the bench. PHX 36, MIN 35

End Q1: Despite shooting 25.9 percent from the field, Minnesota is just down by four going into the second. It was a tough start fro Brewer, Love, Pek and Rubio, who shot a combined 4-for-20 in the first quarter. But the good news was we saw Chase Budinger check in for the first time this year and Ronny Turiaf check in for the first time at Target Center since Nov. 1 late in the period. Chase missed his first shot--a corner 3--but it's progress to have him back on the court. Expect him to play bout 15-20 minutes tonight. Frye has 10 points tonight for Phoenix (3-of-5 from 3), while Dragic has five. PHX 27, MIN 23

Q1 3:08: After the quick start, Minnesota really cooled off and are 3-of-18 since hitting their first three shots. Martin is still hitting his shots, he's 3-of-4 with a game-high 11, but Love is 1-for-7 and Pek is 1-for-5. That won't get it done against this team. Meanwhile, the Suns have five players on the board led by Frye's six and Dragic's five. The Wolves haven't turned the ball over--they have just one TO tonight--but they're shooting 28.6 percent. PHX 20, MIN 17

Q1 9:49: The Wolves are jumping out to a nice lead early on here in the first quarter, opening a 9-0 lead that forces Suns coach Jeff Hornacek into an early timeout. Martin has seven quick points, including a nice midrange jumper off a pump fake to open up a little breathing room and, most recently, a 3-pointer from the wing. Rubio has the other two. Minnesota is shooting 3-of-3 from the field, while Phoenix is starting out 0-for-3 with a quick turnover. MIN 9, PHX 0

Starters:

Suns:
PG-Goran Dragic, SG-Gerald Green, SF-P.J. Tucker, PF-Channing Frye, C-Miles Plumlee

Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Kevin Martin, SF-Corey Brewer, PF-Kevin Love, C-Nikola Pekovic


PREGAME 8:10 PM: There's no question the Suns are the surprise of the NBA so far this season. With a new head coach, a young roster with new faces and in their second year rebuilding post-Steve Nash, the Suns jumped out to a 20-13 record heading into tonight and currently hold one of the precious eight playoff spots. Even if you ask coach Jeff Hornacek, he'll tell you the early results are a bit surprising.

"Yeah, I mean when you look at the overall record, we went into thsi season just saying if we're going to do anything it's we're going to be playing hard and playing together," Hornacek said. "For the most part, those guys have done that. We told them we'll win their fair share of games if you do that. They've kind of bought into that...They're out there playing and obviously it's a start that we didn't anticipate, either. But we thought we would be better than maybe most of the people predicted."

The biggest key to this team's success has been its point guard play. Goran Dragic (18.9 ppg, 5.8 apg) and Eric Bledsoe (18.0 ppg, 5.8 apg) have put up essentially identical numbers, and they've really set the one for this team offensively. Now, the Wolves are getting a break as Bledsoe is out with an injury, but that doesn't give them any reprieve from Dragic.

He's the type of point guard that gets this team into transition and creates havoc for opposing defenses trying to get back. It's something Rick Adelman said has caused Minnesota trouble this year and could make things hard on the Wolves tonight.

Wolves guard Ricky Rubio said the key is understanding what Dragic likes to do on the court and taking it way.

"He's aggressive," Rubio said. "He's been attacking the rim very well in the open court, even one against five sometimes. We just have to be ready. We know he likes to go to his left. I'm going to try to make him go right, but even like that he's been good and aggressive."

Wolves forward Kevin Love said he didn't necessarily see this start out of the Suns, but given the team's steady play he understands why they've been successful through the first two months. Now it's on the Wolves to slow them down.

It does really begin with Dragic.

"He has a great pump fake that he gets a lot of bigs on," Love said. "He's playing at a really high level, and when guys have confidence and consistency in this league, they're hard to stop."

Side note on Dragic, a native of Slovenia, Rubio said the two have played against each other in Spain's ACB league, so they've been familiar with one another for a while.
PREGAME 7:45 PM: Welcome to Target Center for tonight’s late start against the Phoenix Suns—remember, tonight’s game was picked up by ESPN and the original 7 PM tipoff was moved to 8:30 PM. You can see the game on ESPN, Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM. And of course, we’ll have live updates throughout the night beginning with pregame news and notes.

And speaking of pregame news, Chase Budinger will be available tonight, according to coach Rick Adelman. He officially announced that just minutes ago during his pregame media availability. This will be Budinger’s first game of the season after undergoing left knee surgery just before Training Camp began. He’s been cleared for full-contact practice since late-December, getting the OK just before the Los Angeles road trip before Christmas, but for him the biggest thing has been getting his body back to game shape.

Budinger will likely be on a 15-20 minute restriction tonight as he begins easing into NBA game play.

As Adelman said, he’s basically going through Training Camp right now.

“He can get stronger all the time, and you know like I said I’ve talked to him a number of times and he kind of feels like his knee is OK but he’s sore,” Adelman said. “He’s going through Training Camp, basically. It will take him a little bit of time, and it will take our guys some time to figure out what he can do.”

In the Suns’ locker room, Phoenix has officially signed Leandro Barbosa, and he’ll be available tonight. Barbosa is a 10-year veteran who played his first seven seasons with the Suns. He’s a former Sixth Man of the Year, so he knows how to come off the bench and make an impact. He is 31 years old at the moment, but with Eric Bledsoe out it does give the Suns a little more flexibility in their back court. Coach Jeff Hornacek said they’re looking for him to bring some energy and get out and run with Goran Dragic—Barbosa will likely get his minutes at the 2 tonight.

“We want him to be out there and pick up the pace,” Hornacek said. “We have guys that can run, but this gives us another guy that can run along with Goran and can catch up to him. That’s how we play. It should fit in for him.”

More to come here as we get closer to tipoff so stay tuned.


For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.