PHOENIX — This one was bad.
Really, really bad.
Bad for the Minnesota Timberwolves, that is.
The Suns simply abused the lowly Timberwolves Tuesday night, handing them a vicious 152-114 beat down in US Airways Center behind eight players in double figures. The Suns have now won eight straight games over opponents with a losing record.
“We did a great job taking control of the game and keeping control of the game,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said after the game.
The Suns’ 152 points was the most scored in a game by any team in the NBA this season. The Suns’ 79 first-half points made for their best scoring half of the season.
In fact, the Suns clobbered the Timberwolves so badly that they did something that hasn’t been done since March 21, 1972: score 35 or more points in every quarter.
Nothing to get excited about though — this is Minnesota. Those kinds of stats just show how awful the Timberwolves really are. So awful that Taylor Griffin played more than five minutes for the Suns.
During the first half, the Suns seemed unwilling to run away with the game, going on short runs but giving all the points right back. They finally decided to try sealing the game up early, making 11 of their last 12 shots in the second quarter during a 15-5 run to carry a 79-61 lead into the break.
The breather didn’t slow the Suns down though, as they opened the third quarter with an 8-2 run. From there, pretty much all the Suns had to do was hold the lead — something they have been notoriously bad at for parts of this season.
“We shot the ball extremely well tonight,” Gentry said. “Obviously, scoring 152 points, you have to be shooting well.”
It was a night where the Suns seemed unable to miss — expect a few Jason Richardson dunks — right from the start. Richardson’s three-pointer in the first minute of the game started it all, and the Suns shot 56.1 percent for the game, including 77.3 percent in the second quarter.
“It was just one of those nights,” Richardson said. “The shots were falling. I felt it tonight from long range, but I missed three dunks so I guess it’s a tradeoff.”
Richardson stole the show on offense, netting 27 points and shooting 6-of-9 from beyond the three-point arc. Amare Stoudemire seemed to be looking for another 30-point performance — he had four in his last five games entering the night — but finished with “only” 25.
“My jumper was pretty on tonight for the most part, so I was able to get it going from the outside,” Stoudemire said of Minnesota’s efforts to keep him out of the paint.
The Timberwolves have good pieces like Corey Brewer, who finished with a team-high 21 points, but they just don’t have a good whole. Again, that’s exactly why the Suns have to win these games. It won’t be so easy against Utah, Portland, San Antonio or Denver.
“This is a game we must win and can’t afford to lose,” Richardson said.
Part of the reason this game got so out of control offensively was the defensive ineptitude of both teams. The Suns rank 26th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, and the Timberwolves are just behind them at 27th. This was no defensive showdown, to say the least.
“You can’t win letting a team score 150,” Minnesota forward Ryan Gomes said, in one of the most ‘duh’ thoughts of the night. “Our defense wasn’t what it needed to be.”
Quite the understatement. But the Suns made a clear statement of where they are right now and what they are going to do with 14 games remaining: win all the winnable games.
The Suns are jockeying for a favorable playoff seed. Looking to avoid sliding to the eighth seed and an almost-certain meeting with the Lakers, the Suns know they have to win the seven of their next nine games against sub-.500 teams.
But tonight’s win was more than a blowout, rest-the-starters-and-win-the-games-you-have-to kind of game. It was also a display of the Suns’ physical readiness for the tough stretch ahead — something that comes as a real surprise with all the recent injuries.
After hitting his head very hard against New Orleans Sunday, Grant Hill didn’t miss a beat, scoring 13 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
The most anticipated return to the lineup though was that of Leandro Barbosa. After Goran Dragic picked up his third foul in the second quarter, Barbosa entered to a standing ovation with 3:10 remaining in the quarter.
After bricking two wide-open threes, Barbosa notched his first points on a transition bucket.
“I was so happy,” Barbosa said. “It’s just great to finish the game without pain. It was really tough for me before the surgery and I’m just happy to be back.”
Barbosa went on to get significant minutes in the second half when the Suns had a huge lead, totaling nearly 16 minutes and finishing with seven points, three assists, and three rebounds.
That Barbosa can put up solid numbers like that in just 16 minutes is a good sign for the Suns, who already get a lot from their bench. Lou Amundson scored 20 Tuesday and Channing Frye added 14, including 4-of-6 shooting from deep.
“Everybody played well,” Gentry said. “It was just a good total team effort.”
And it was exactly the kind of effort the Suns hope to bring Friday when the Jazz roll into Phoenix.
- The win was the Suns’ 42nd of the season, which clinched the team’s sixth consecutive winning season — every season since Nash returned in 2004-2005. Only five teams have had a winning record in every season since 2004-2005. They are the Cavaliers, Spurs, Mavericks and Nuggets. Pretty elite company.
- The first shot Richardson hit gave him a total of 12,000 points in his career. Asked after the game if it meant he was really good or really old, Richardson laughed and said, “It means I’m old.”
- Alando Tucker nearly doubled the amount of minutes he has played for the Timberwolves since the Suns traded him to Minnesota by getting just over nine minutes of court time in his return to Phoenix. He totaled four points, one rebound, and one assist.
- It was an all-out mascot bonanza at US Airways Center Tuesday night as the Suns celebrated the Gorilla’s 30th birthday. Mascots from the Arizona Cardinls, Arizona Diamondbacks, Phoenix Coyotes, Phoenix Mercury, San Anonio Spurs (lots of boos there), Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Hornets and Timberwolves helped honor Go. They then proceeded to hang around harassing fans all night. Their presence did, however, make for a very entertaining jam session before the fourth quarter.