Rubio's Elite Playmaking was Key in Suns Victory Over Timberwolves

Ricky Rubio Timberwolves
by Cody Cunningham

The Phoenix Suns returned home from their four-game road trip as the team tipped-off against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night. 

Suns fans arrived to celebrate Hornito’s Fiesta Night as well as the birthdays of Kelly Oubre Jr (24 years old) and Aron Baynes (33 years old). Fans received a gift of their own as it was announced that Baynes would return to action after missing the previous four games with a left calf strain. 

Both birthday boys showed-out in front of the home crowd.

It was a back-and-forth battle in the first half that included 14 ties and 12 lead changes with both teams shooting over 50 percent from the field. Oubre (13 points), Dario Šarić (13 points) and Devin Booker (12 points) were all already in double-digits by halftime as the Suns trailed by just three entering the break. Ricky Rubio played a critical role in the first half, leading the Suns offensive with eight assists without committing a single turnover in the first two quarters.

The two teams combined for 125 points in the first half, but the Suns came out of the break with an emphasis on defense as their lock-down play quickly became the turning point in the game. The Suns held the Timberwolves to just 6-of-17 (35.3%) from the field and 1-of-6 (16.7%) from three-point range, allowing just 21 points in the third.

“The urgency in the third was, to me, the key,” Head Coach Monty. Williams said. “We talked about it wasn’t anything we changed, we just made a concerted effort to do what we wanted to do better. We blitzed Wiggins when Towns was out, so sometimes that helps, but I just thought the effort to do what we do with some urgency in the third quarter, when they had 21 points, I thought that was the game.”

Their defensive pressure mixed with the hot hand of Booker (12 points in the third) guided them to an 11-point lead as they began to put the game out of reach. The Suns lead only grew into the fourth quarter as they never seemed to let their foot off the gas, going up by as many as 19 points. Phoenix ultimately closed-out the game with a 125-109 victory as they improved to 2-0 against Minnesota on the season.

Booker led the way for the Suns with 26 points to go along with his 7 assists, 4 rebounds and a block. Oubre celebrated his 24th birthday with 24 points, 4 rebounds and a block.

Rubio continued his dominant playmaking as he notched another double-double with 16 points and 14 assists. He has now tallied 13-plus assists in four of his last five games and has had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 73 assists to 9 turnovers in his last six games.

“He’s just been an efficient point guard,” Williams said. “His ability to read coverages and find guys, I think he sees stuff before it happens, most of the really good point guards do that. Our guys know if they run, Ricky is going to get them the ball. I just think he’s a really good point guard. I’m thankful that we have him.”

This was Rubio’s fifth games this season with 10-plus assists and 1 or fewer turnovers, the most in the NBA this year. 

“He helps out tremendously,” Rubio said. “He gets everybody their shots in the right spots at the right time, so it’s been a big help our past few games. He’s carried us a lot.” 

Mikal Bridges locked-down defensively as he finished the game with. 9 points, 8 reboun ds, 4 assists, 3 steals and two blocks. He joined Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler and Jonathan Isaac as the only wings this season to have a game with at least 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks (h/t Evan Sidery). 

Baynes scored 12 points with 4 rebounds and a block in 15 minutes in his return to action. 

“He was great,” Williams said. “He gives us a presence, he’s talking…It’s just good to have him back. He’s important to us.” 

Šarić notched his second 20-point performance of the season while shooting 7-of-11 from the field and grabbing 9 rebounds in the win.

The Suns will stay home as they prepare to tip-off against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. Be sure to catch the action on Fox Sports Arizona.

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