Wolves Hold Off Suns, 111-107
Wolves Editorial Associate
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Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko have all had their issues with injuries this year. But the trio rallied together for an incredible effort—combining for 71 total points and 32 rebounds—in a 111-107 win over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night.
Kirilenko started the game off with a bang, scoring five straight baskets without a miss to total 10 points. Kirilenko, Love and Pekovic combined to score all 32 of the Wolves’ points in the first quarter.
“Yeah all three of those guys,” coach Rick Adelman said of his big men. “We thought we had an advantage underneath. It was one of those things; it ended up being a good win for us.”
Wolves vs Suns
In a game where both teams shot high percentages, it seemed like players just took their turns going on runs. Derrick Williams—normally known for his dunks and play down low—was hot from the field in the second quarter, making two 3-pointers and a contested jumper. The Wolves had four players at double-digits at the halftime break, led by Pekovic’s 17. As a team, they shot a blistering 57 percent over the first two quarters.
The Suns—pardon the pun—came out hot in the second half, going on a 14-6 run to eventually lead by two at one point. But the Wolves held out and executed defensively, namely in the final seconds.
A 17-footer from Luis Scola gave the Suns a 106-105 lead with 1:37 left in the contest. But a basket from Pekovic gave the Wolves a one-point advantage, followed by Alexey Shved drawing a shooting foul and hitting both charity shots.
From there, Scola and Shved traded free throws, leaving the game at 110-107 with eight seconds left. Dante Cunningham stole the inbounds pass and converted a free throw to lock the final score.
On a night where Ricky Rubio sat out due to back spasms, Shved stepped up as a distributor and impact player. The rookie dished out 10 assists and scored 12 points—including some crucial late free throws to ice the game.
“I thought the second half he was a lot better,” Adelman said of Shved. “He made plays. We didn't have to make great plays, we just had to make solid plays.”
Saturday night was the first game all season where three Minnesota players scored over 20 points, with Kirilenko (20), Love (23) and Pekovic (28) all enjoying good nights shooting. Love and Pekovic added 18 and 11 rebounds, respectively, to record their double-doubles. J.J. Barea and Derrick Williams each pitched in 10 points as well.
“I think that I was a little reluctant to shoot the ball last game just because it was one of those days where it didn’t feel right,” Love said, who enjoyed a nice night after scoring just seven points on Wednesday against Houston. “Everybody’s been telling me to keep shooting those shots because it’s going to come, and I do believe it will. You’ve just got to keep working, and that provides good things.”
Scola led Phoenix’s scoring charge, recording 33 points to go with 10 rebounds for what was his finest performance of the season to date.
“[Scola] just seemingly made all his shots,” Love said. “And that’s a guy who can hit 20-footers with consistency, and he did that tonight. He was hitting nothing but the bottom.”
Shannon Brown also pitched in 21 for Phoenix, and Jared Dudley scored 18. Goran Dragic netted 16 points along with 12 rebounds while manning the point.
Leader of the Pack: Andrei Kirilenko
The springy Russian forward had an incredibly efficient night against Phoenix, totaling 20 points on 10-for-13 shooting. He was the recipient of several assists from Shved, cutting to the hoop and getting himself open for a dunk or close finish. True to his nature, Kirilenko also rounded out his box score with five rebounds and four assists.
Highlight of the Night
After the score was tied at 54, Barea made a tough layup and the Wolves were working on building a lead going into the halftime break. With just over two minutes left, Pekovic grabbed an offensive rebound and flipped it to Kirilenko, who cut in for an emphatic dunk. Phoenix called a timeout to quiet the Target Center crowd, and Minnesota eventually built their lead to six before half.
The Numbers Game
“These previous few games, we was just struggling with the fourth quarter and these last few minutes, so we're kind of making some little mistakes. That's why we lost the games, but I think tonight we played smart. We played smart all the way to the end, even in the fourth quarter." — Wolves center Nikola Pekovic
The Wolves take a three-day break before taking a mini-road trip to the Rocky Mountains, where they will face off against Utah and Denver in consecutive days before returning home to host Portland on the 5th.