Phoenix Suns 108, Minnesota Timberwolves 98 -- Bench victory


Hakim Warrick helped the bench unit total 58 points in Wednesday's win over Minnesota. (AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)

Hakim Warrick helped the bench unit total 58 points in Wednesday's win over Minnesota. (AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)

With the playoffs out of the question and nothing tangible to play for, it’s up to the Phoenix Suns’ bench and role players to rack up victories as the season comes to a close.

Although it came against the NBA’s worst team without its best player in Kevin Love, the Suns’ second unit rose to the occasion on Wednesday night as Phoenix defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves, 108-98.

Steve Nash and Grant Hill played a combined 39 minutes and every starter aside from Marcin Gortat sat for the entire fourth quarter as they watched Aaron Brooks, Josh Childress, Vince Carter and Hakim Warrick take care of the lowly T-Wolves.

Hill scored 17 points in 19 minutes and Gortat had a monster game with 20 points and 16 boards in a team-high 32 minutes, but it was the bench that should be credited with the win.

The second unit combined for 58 points, all of which came from Brooks, Carter, Childress and Warrick.

The bench mob that’s struggled at times this season did a nice job fending off Minnesota down the stretch as they never let the five-point lead they took into the fourth shrink down below four.

Brooks was a huge reason why, as he controlled the tempo and scored 10 of his 19 points in the final period, making all four of his shots while dishing out three of his six dimes to boot.

Tonight was Brooks’ best performance since his 25-point, eight-assist outburst against the Raptors, and easily his second most efficient performance as he made 8-of-13 shots and turned the ball over only twice in 26 minutes. It came against Luke Ridnour and a laughable Minnesota squad, but maybe the Suns have reason to believe in Brooks as the point guard after the Nash era.

Childress, Gortat, Carter and Warrick did the rest of the Suns’ fourth-quarter scoring, which was Phoenix’s downfall all season long. But it wasn’t only the fourth quarter where the bench mob shined.

After the starters limped through the first quarter to take a 26-23 lead at the end of one, the bench pushed the Suns’ lead to 15 — their biggest of the game — with 3:34 left in the quarter.

Much like the fourth quarter, Carter, Warrick, Brooks and Childress combined for all 30 of the Suns’ second-quarter points, even though they also allowed 30 points and took only a three-point lead into halftime.

The defense wasn’t stellar, but those four bench players — plus Gortat — got it done with the starters on the bench. Warrick played as aggressive as he has in a long time, scoring 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting including a few rim-rattling slams.

Carter also impressed, following up his 23-point game against the Bulls with 12 points and four boards. But it wasn’t his stats that turned heads, but rather a pair of dunks — one following a reverse spin where he planted both feet and threw it down with two hands and another one-handed slam off an alley-oop.

And finally there was Childress, who once again played an efficient all-around game, scoring 10 points off of 5-of-6 shooting while grabbing four rebounds, dishing out three assists and collecting three steals.

In addition to the four bench standouts, Gortat played another Gortat-like game, grabbing 36.3 percent of the Suns’ total rebounds and shooting 8-for-14 from the field to collect his sixth double-double in eight games. He’s averaging 11.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks over his last five games and continues to be one of the few silver linings to come from this season.

It’s hard to find positives out of a victory over the NBA’s worst team when the playoffs are out of the equation, but the play of the Suns’ bench and Gortat’s continual dominance give Phoenix something to smile about with four games remaining in a disappointing 2010-11 campaign.

And 1

Garret Siler, not Robin Lopez, was the first big man off of the bench for the Suns. Siler played only two minutes, however, committing a turnover and scoring zero points and grabbing zero rebounds. … Although it seems impossible to be worse than that stat line, Lopez was. He went 0-for-3 and picked up three fouls in six minutes. But the stats didn’t even tell the story. He airballed a 16-foot jumper, got swatted at the rim by Wesley Johnson on a ball that he should have easily dunked but instead went for a weak left hook, and got embarrassed defensively on a lob feed when he didn’t jump. The seven-footer’s regression remains the biggest mystery of the season.

Tags: Aaron Brooks Marcin Gortat

  • TheDane

    Hi guys,

    It is sad to see this new core of Hill, Gortat and Nash not making the playoffs. I really think there should be some ingredients here for a great team. But Nash breaking down and too much shake up seems to have cost this season.

    What will the Suns be looking to do for next season?

    Nash, Dudley, Hill, Gortat, Brooks, Frye seem like keepers. But what about Childress and Pietrus? They aren’t getting much playing time!?

    I sincerely hope that Carter will be swapped for something useful, then I truly believe this team could have one last run in them for next year…

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    TheDane,

    Carter is getting bought out, no matter how many Vincanity dunks he puts up between now and the end of the season.

    Nash, (and Hill probably), are good as dealt or rather, it’s looking more like that every day.

    Childress is a keeper. He’s just nasty when given playing time on both ends of the court. Was I the only one who kind-of thought he’d be the player who would try to steal an inbounds pass off his own layup? I love that guy.

    Brooks may be gone. 60% chance of it mainly due to his reported asking price, whatever that is.

    I’d love to keep Frye, (and Warrick off the bench), but Frye might be attractive to teams chasing titles and that have no use for youth or draft picks.

  • TheDane

    I was not aware that Nash and Hill are as good as gone!? I have only seen vague rumours!

    I hope they will give it one more go, Gortat is a good fit with Nash.

  • Phil

    Rich I also like Childress and can’t work out why he has so little PT this year – he has always produced and his contract looked reasonable to me. Not feeling Warrick though, especially if Nash is gone – he has nice explosion to the basket in the P&R but otherwise doesn’t offer enough, and with Nash gone we will be a different team.

    I actually agree with the Dane – IF Nash can stay healthy, I think this team could make one last run if they could add a quality 2 for Carter and one more big – I’m not talking superstars but guys who play hard and one of them has to be a scorer. If we don’t sign Brooks, dump Carter and can find a taker for Warrick, Pietrus or Childress (I like both Pietrus and Childress but we don’t need this many role playing wings, especially is we get another 2) then we should have the cap space for it

  • Steve

    ^^^ I agree with basically everything that has been said already.

    But, the best case scenario for the Suns to speed up their rebuilding process might be to have a shortened or completely eliminated 11-12 season. I really don’t know if enough things can happen between now and November for the Suns to rebuild this mess into a quality team.

    Just look at the box score from last night. Who on this team is worth having around? As much as I love Dudley, I really don’t think he’s a starter for a championship contender. He would be an excellent role player for a great team, but that’s the role that Childress and Pietrus still fill. Grant is great, and I really like him a lot, but some combination of SF/SG needs to give big production on the offensive side of the floor, and Grant just doesn’t offer that on a consistent basis. Frye can’t have 0-fers if he wants to be considered legit. I don’t think Nash can be a 33-min guy any more. Lopez is the tin man (no heart). Warrick gets knocked down by the wind. The only person on this team I really don’t want to get rid of is Gortat. He impresses me night-in and night-out.

    But it’s not very realistic to swap out 6-7 players in a single off-season. That’s why I think a break from basketball might work well for the Suns.

  • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

    @TheDane We don’t exactly know the direction the Suns will go but I would say it’s more likely than not that they make the moves. The one mitigating factor could be if Sarver decided he has to keep his cash cow (Nash around). I’m sure the Suns would love Hill back if nothing else as the guy to show this next generation of Suns the NBA, but if they do trade Nash you would think he would want to find a contender.

    I basically agree with the rest. I’ve always liked Childress a lot, too. He got squeezed out because the Suns couldn’t play five wings and 11 rotation players and since he’s not a shooter/spacer he was the odd man out. I figure he will be an important part of next year’s rotation.

    Brooks is the big question mark. I don’t love him as the point guard of the future but if the price is reasonable I’d be OK with him coming back. That being said, anything in the neighborhood of $8 mil a year isn’t close to reasonable.

  • Tony

    The Suns future is in as bad shape as anyone in the NBA. The two best players on this team are 37 and 38 and as much as I love Gortat, he hasn’t shown much offensive game aside from being spoon-fed from Nash. What happens when Nash is gone and Gortat doesn’t get those easy looks? The same goes for Frye, as he is also dependent on Nash sucking in the defense to get open and spot up shoot. Brooks can score, but he’s so inconsistent and just too short to guard anybody. I still say the Suns were better off with Dragic.

    The starting sg position is really a serious weakness. No way is Dudley a starter on a good team, he’s too slow and unathletic and can’t create his own shot at all. Obviously, and rightly so, Carter will be bought out at season’s end, but at least at times he’s shown an ability to create his own shots. Neither Dudley, Peitrus, nor Childress can even do that. Without Nash, this team has the potential to become one of the worst offensive teams in the league.

    The starting PF position is another spot of weakness for the Suns. Frye, to his credit, has made noticable strides this season, but he’s still too limited offensively and his defense/rebounding are still subpar. He would be a very solid backup pf, but not a starter. Furthermore, Warrick is not a backup pf quality player. Other than his explosive dunks and occasional makes from mid-range shots, he’s completely useless. He also possesses no understanding of how to play the game.

    In conclusion, the future of the Suns is hardly bright.

  • TheDane

    It truly makes me sad how this beautiful era is just slowly dissolving.

    Nash has with the Suns played some of the most beautiful basketball I have ever seen, and it just feels like he never got a full chamber of bullets to work with… which is what makes it sad.

    But if the big lock-out occurs, and the season is cut down to about 40-50 games, the Suns manage to address at least one of the two needs (starting SG or PF), and bring the rest of the core back… then I would really, really like to see this group get one more run.

    Imagine what a short season would do for the two grand old men… + the time to make deals.

    Childress probably has to play mainly with the bench-unit, since he doesn’t shoot well enough for Nash.

  • Steve

    There are endless possibilities. I can’t wait till some moves start being made, then maybe we’ll get a better glance of the big picture.

    Anyone listen to the Gentry interview on KTAR today? He is NOT happy with Lopez at all. Not one bit. I almost feel bad for Robin… but then I remember he got himself in this mess.

  • shawn

    I want Nash and hill back with the right pieces they have one more run left in them anyone but gortat should be expendable. And the official mystery of the year wtf happened to Lopez!!!

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