The Phoenix Suns were able to score pretty much at will against the Minnesota Timberwolves and they did a fantastic job rebounding the ball, but defensively they continue to struggle. In a game that shouldn't have been this close, Phoenix needed a big 19-7 fourth quarter run to take control of the game and win 128-122.
It's a win and a nice close-out against a young, tired team, but you can't be pleased with all the open shots the Wolves got in this game -- they shot 53.8 percent on the night. The Suns are last in the league in opponent field goal percentage allowed.
"It's a win. Right now that's the best thing that could happen to us. We just needed a win," Coach Alvin Gentry said, adding, "We have got to continue to get better defensively."
For the most part, the Suns players were relatively satisfied with their effort and just seemed happy to have played well on the offensive end.
Aside from the resurgent Suns offense -- which had been missed in the last three games -- the biggest positive was the rebounding. The Suns were dead last in the league in defensive rebounding percentage going into this game while the Timberwolves were second in offensive rebound rate. In this game, however, the Suns game out with a purpose and benefited from the return of Robin Lopez to the lineup after missing 14 games with a left knee injury.
Phoenix out-rebounded Minnesota 46-39 and held Kevin Love to his season average of 16 per game. Channing Frye had nine rebounds for Phoenix, while Robin Lopez and Jason Richardson each had eight. Lopez added 12 points (4-9) and played a solid, but rusty 23 minutes.
"I think that's a little bit of will, a little bit of focus. Channing (Frye) and I and the whole team, we were talking about making sure they didn't get too many second chance points and on the flip side we felt that we were able to crash the boards ourself, offensively," Lopez said after the game. He reported no pain or soreness in his knee.
In his continuing quest to find a bench rotation that works, Gentry didn't play Josh Childress in the game and instead gave 28 minutes to Jared Dudley (11 points, two rebounds). The bench scored 34 points, but defensively weren't very good.
The Suns were led offensively by a bounce-back performance from Richardson, who finished with 29 points, and Steve Nash, who had 19 assists and 11 points. The Suns hit 15 three-point shots (15-27), including seven from Frye, which ties his career-high.
Frye said the came into the game determined to take every open shot he had. He wanted to be aggressive and it paid off, "I've got to get back to Channing of old and that's just, you don't have that hand up that ball's going up."
The Timberwolves got 23 points from Kevin Love, but repeatedly showed their youth with multiple mental errors like Corey Brewer leaving Steve Nash open to double-team Channning Frye, who was being marked by Darko Milicic. Timberwolves Coach Kurt Rambis talked about his team's mistakes.
"We just made a bunch of mistakes in our defensive coverage...The vast majority of it was our weak side defense didn't do their job because of the way they changed sides of the floor and Nash's vision."
The Suns leave Thursday for a three-game road trip with games against the Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs. The defense is going to have to be better than this to win any of those games.