Minnesota Timberwolves 111, Phoenix Suns 107 — More of the same

Posted by on December 29th, 11:30 pm

The Phoenix Suns continue to invent new ways to lose thanks to poor late-game execution.

In a shootout defined by dominant frontcourt play from Minnesota and Luis Scola’s best game as a Sun, Phoenix just could not get a stop down the stretch before a couple of poor offensive decisions ultimately doomed them in a 111-107 loss to the Timberwolves.

“Another case of the other team making the plays toward the end of the game,” Jared Dudley told reporters.

The Suns actually led 102-99 with 3:47 left after a JD basket, and that’s when a Phoenix defense that struggled all game failed to come up with the crucial stop or two that could have meant victory. The Wolves made their next four shots plus two free throws to take their own three-point lead with 55 ticks left.

The Suns finally forced a miss (or I should say Dante Cunningham bricked an open jumper) and Phoenix had the ball down three with 12 seconds left in a helter skelter situation with three Wolves behind the ball.

Dragic made what would ordinarily be the right basketball play by threading a bounce pass to a red hot and wide open Scola chugging down the court. At this point three Wolves ran at him to defend the shot and he ended up getting fouled with Minnesota giving him no chance to make the basket to score a potential game-tying three-point play.

This second guess would be very difficult to consider in real time with the right basketball play in front of them, but I feel like the Suns absolutely had to take a three in this situation, whether Dragic took one off the dribble with Scola running down to secure rebounding position or whether Scola kicked it right back out to an open Dragic for the tie.

Scola missed the first free throw and that would have been the game had Alexey Shved not missed one of his attempts as well to keep the lead at three, and that’s where the inbounding issues began.

First Scola couldn’t find anybody so after nearing five seconds on the inbounds clock he rifled a pass to Dudley in the corner that the long arms of Andrei Kirilenko knocked away in a play close enough to cause the refs to go to the replay monitors. Then JD tried his luck as the inbounder and lofted a pass to Shannon Brown at the top of the three-point line, but Cunningham was in the vicinity defending Dragic and he stole the ball and sealed the Phoenix loss by hitting one of two free throws.

“We have to stop punishing ourselves,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry told reporters. “We have to stop being our own worst enemy. We’ve got to get ourselves in a position where teams have to make plays against us to win the game and not us making plays against ourselves. It’s discouraging from the standpoint of if you look at our win-loss record, it’s encouraging that we just keep battling and putting ourselves in the position to do that, but we don’t have anything tangible to show for it. At the end of the day it’s discouraging.”

Like Gentry said, the positives are the Suns stayed with a good Minnesota team missing Ricky Rubio on the second game of a back-to-back on the road.

The negatives are that the Wolves shot better than 50 percent and got huge games from Kevin Love (23 points, 18 rebounds), Nikola Pekovic (28 points, 11 rebounds) and Kirilenko (20 points on 10-for-13 shooting).

Dragic did a nice job bouncing back from his scary fall on Wednesday by going for 16 points and 12 assists, but Scola was the man for the Suns on this night.

After that Knicks game, Dudley spoke about how since the Suns don’t really have a go-to guy they must feed the hot hand every night, and with six players scoring in double figures it could really be any one of them on any given evening.

Minnesota could not stop Scola as an array of crafty moves around the tin and a hot mid-range night led him to score 33 points on 16-for-26 shooting to go with 10 boards, two assists and two blocks in 43 minutes that included some backup center duty with Jermaine O’Neal out with back spasms.

Scola makes crafty moves on the interior and hits jumpers every night, but he did so tonight with a different confidence, and the Suns kept feeding him as he took a season-high amount of shots that’s more than twice his season average.

The Suns now have gotten a 30-point scorer twice in the last three games after not getting one all season to this point. And really it seems that’s what they need just to stay close these days.

Phoenix has now lost five in a row with an almost certain sixth coming Monday in Oklahoma City following the four-game winning streak that followed the seven-game losing streak. The Suns have also lost 13 of 15 away from downtown Phoenix and are tied with Sacramento as the second-worst team in the West.

The Suns are making things interesting and playing close games, yet they all too seldom break through. Watching the final minutes I was wondering how the Suns would find a way to lose this one, and no, I did not think it would be because they went for two down three and then threw away an inbounds pass.

“We battle so hard when you’re down and you’re fighting on the road, you get the lead and you are up by two or three with three minutes to go and you can’t close it out,” Dudley said. “That is what happens when teams are losing, when teams are winning they find a way to get those wins.”

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

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Tags: Luis Scola · Minnesota Timberwolves · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Recap

32 responses so far ↓

  • 1 SHAZAM // Dec 29, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    seen any good movies lately?

  • 2 Scott // Dec 29, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    The Hobbit was okay.

  • 3 DBreezy // Dec 30, 2012 at 1:23 am

    Glad I scalped some tix to the Mich State/TCU game for 2$ vs watching the Suns game live tonight. I’m starting to think they might not make the playoffs.

  • 4 Luka // Dec 30, 2012 at 1:29 am

    Beasley has given up on the Suns. Trade him now please.

  • 5 azbballfan // Dec 30, 2012 at 1:31 am

    LOL

    What can i say about this team?

    other than #%@!$!!

    I saw the Clippers crush the Celtics by 29 other day

    Maybe that will motivate them to make a trade with us?

    its clear beasley is not the problem we thought he was early in the season

    The Suns have been terrible either way with him on the floor or on the bench

    You signed a guy to a contract just play him 35 minutes a game.

    He isnt Demarcus Cousins

    he would have been in trouble if he was acting like that as a Sun

    Dragic had a great game considering his scary fall a few days ago

    So are the Bobcats gonna win a game before the Suns do?

    Cause right now i think they have more talent than we do

  • 6 Luka // Dec 30, 2012 at 1:50 am

    The Suns have no upside and no direction as a franchise. Instead of moving Nash after 2010 for some younger talent, the FO decided to waste time and money on bottom of the barrel role players.

    Sarver is a moron. He can’t commit to winning, and has no clue on how to commit to a re-build. By dumb luck this Suns team will be bad enough for a top 5 pick in the draft. Let’s hope third time’s a charm and that Blanks and Treloar don’t draft on need alone.

  • 7 SHAZAM // Dec 30, 2012 at 3:48 am

    i actually do think the bobcats have more upside…so i guess jordan is a better owner than sarver..its all just silly knit picking…everything has been said..not sure what to write anymore as far as basketball goes..i hear the bass are biting on that new frog lure at lake pleasant..any word on that?

  • 8 Luka // Dec 30, 2012 at 4:14 am

    Gentry: Here’s your bagel with cream cheese Mr. Babby…

    Babby: Call me Lon. Look, I know what my strengths are, and I don’t want to pry… but is everything all right?

    Gentry: Yeah definitely Lon, I think this team is doing a real good job to compete but we got to make shots at the end of games.

    Babby: (Opens newspaper) we’ve got a meeting with Robert later today, he wants you to take the company car to Office Max and buy construction paper for a team collage on togetherness and unity. I don’t have to tell you that Robert feels this meeting is of the utmost importance to getting our season turned around.

    Gentry: No doubt.

  • 9 hawki // Dec 30, 2012 at 5:12 am

    “seen any good movies lately”

    saw “The Big Lebowski” on some channel the other night & believe me…..watching last night’s game….Beasley was more stoned than “The Dude”.

  • 10 Polish_fan // Dec 30, 2012 at 5:37 am

    I saw “Extracted” and as it was twisted one, It was worth seeing ;)

    Talking about the Suns – Tanking is in progress I think:)

    Thats why, I would rather focus on the next season and :
    1. work on Dragic delivery
    2. team defense (of people who will stay for the next season)
    3. develop Marshall (or sent him off on unactive list)
    4. try to trade Gortat/Beasley/Morris/Johnson/Telfair – now to get some assets on the next season
    5. think about possible draft pick in the matter of trades during this season….

    simple enough ;)

  • 11 SHAZAM // Dec 30, 2012 at 6:18 am

    has anyone seen “what about bob”? bill murray is so funny

  • 12 bill.thomas // Dec 30, 2012 at 6:26 am

    I underbid on Beasley the other day. Said we should be happy to get 1000 pounds of pot for him. Actually, I think he’s worth 2000 pounds of high grade, but nothing more.

  • 13 bill.thomas // Dec 30, 2012 at 6:30 am

    For his sake I hope he doesn’t bring any into OKC. Damn cops are tough over there.

  • 14 DBreezy // Dec 30, 2012 at 10:37 am

    I guess the bright side was that Rubio didn’t play. If he did the Wolves probably turn it over a fewer times and I think the Suns got something like 14pts off turnovers. Cut 4 or 5 off that number and it’s not even a close game.

  • 15 DBreezy // Dec 30, 2012 at 10:39 am

    I see that Josh Childress has gotten his second release in about six months. Will it be Europe or China this time? Perhaps he and Babby can have a Jerry McGuire moment when Lon is fired.

  • 16 Scott // Dec 30, 2012 at 11:18 am

    So .. O’Neal is on the injured list? Any idea how long he’ll be out?

    Beasley scored 2 points in 10 minutes, was 1-8. So just how bad is Johnson, really?

    And for that matter, how bad is Zeller? How is his in-game shooting ability supposed to develop if he doesn’t get time on court with the Suns or in the D-League?

    IMO, Sarver desperately needs a smart GM. There must be one off in the weeds somewhere.

  • 17 Voqar // Dec 30, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Waive beasely. Nobody is going to trade for him. Please, get rid of him. Then get rid of whoever thought he was ever going to be a decent player.

    It’s so hard to watch this team. They had a chance to win this game.

    Beasely jacking up horrible shots and brutally missing every one of them does not help anything. It’s actually hard to believe anybody could miss so many shots so badly without it being intentional.

    Coach yanked him every time but not before he did damage we couldn’t afford in such a tight game where nobody could play defense.

    I would say that Beasely should stop shooting jump shots and only get to the rim, but his layup attempts are as equally horrific to behold and about equally unlikely to ever go in.

    If the FO hadn’t pissed away a contract on Beasely he wouldn’t play. Nobody would play someone this bad without being forced to do it.

    Johnson has never got enough PT for anybody to know if he can actually play.

  • 18 peter // Dec 30, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    hi to all, and sorry for my english

    it is symptomatic, how poor is Gortat physical form, if he lose rebound fight with this heavy tank Pekovic, maybe he should rest a little, Gentry anyway prefer to play lower squad, and has no idea of using him in the offense (just copy/paste this PnR with Telfair from Pacers game for god’s sake!)

    And Beasley, I love watching him, this cat-like movements :) but he has no finish, totally, he can’t make an easy layup! He should not play at all at that moment.

  • 19 Hannes // Dec 30, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    i wonder when the next commentator will say “beasley, he is a scorer.”

  • 20 Michael // Dec 30, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    I wonder whether or not it makes sense to tank this season.
    They seem to play better than the results show, as they stay competitive nearly every game. So I´m not too sad they lose the close ones.
    It´s said the next draft is a very weak one. So which draft position would you consider as a serious chance of developing the franchise in the future? Is it Top5? Or only Top3? Or will there not be a single franchise player out in the next draft?
    I´ve not seen NCAA lately, so I can only read of possible top picks like Shabazz (“a better James Harden”?), Cody Zeller (“Pau”), Rudy Gobert (“Chandler”), Anthony Bennett (“Milsap”), McAdoo (“Josh Smith”). To be honest I wouldn´t mind getting the next Millsap or Smith or even the next Monta Ellis (Goodwin), and that´s where we come down to a Top10 pick. It sounds like an absolute superstar draft class for me.
    And for 2014: Is it worth tanking completely the next season to get Wiggins?
    I mean, I really don´t get what we are doing right now? I can´t stand watching my Suns any more. And it seems most of you have quit with this team for the season.

  • 21 azbballfan // Dec 30, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    The January schedule for the Suns is brutal

    When is the next winnable game ?

    cause i really dont see one right now

    by the way O.J. Mayo is making the front office look silly for taking beasley over him.

    We also could have had J.J. Hickson as well instead of Scola

    Since hardly anyone on this team finishes at the rim thats another reason why we lose close games

    I heard somewhere that the Suns have lost 11 games this year by 3 points or less.

    Even if we had one all those games we would still be like 500 or maybe barely over that.

    Time to blow it up, front office

    I think the trade machine on espn will let you do jeff green, avery bradley and fab melo to the Suns for Gortat, Beasley, and Telfair

    but you would have to wait until january 15th when Greens contact is able to be traded

    i think the salaries are close enough

    or one that would work right now is

    jason terry, courtney lee, jared sullinger, fab melo, avery bradley

    for telfair, gortat, and beasley

    i would take either one

    none of those guys have terrible contracts and of that group only terry is a vet

    you could just buy out terry if you had to anyway

    that would leave us with a lineup of

    Dragic, Bradley, Dudley, Scola, Melo

    6th man terry

    rest of the bench Marshall, Sullinger, Morris, Courney Lee

  • 22 Polish_fan // Dec 30, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    plus that terry graduated college in Arizona.
    For me Gortat to Boston would work. id like to see him wth rondo n pierce at the court:-)

  • 23 SHAZAM // Dec 30, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    nba teams dont have the energy to play 48 frenetic minutes..once a team knows they can close out another team they coast a bit..then in crunch time the d stiffens and more driving to the rim..that is the reason the suns LOOK like they are in close games a lot

  • 24 bill.thomas // Dec 30, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    First one with 2000 pounds of high grade pot, I’ll rassle down Beasley and turn him over to you.

  • 25 Anonymous // Dec 30, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Just finished watching the entire 4 seasons of prison break. Awesome ass show.

  • 26 bill.thomas // Dec 30, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    In my opinion, Sarver needs a full-time shrink and a full-time proctologist.

  • 27 Luka // Dec 30, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    lol

  • 28 SHAZAM // Dec 31, 2012 at 4:21 am

    i watched prison break a year or 2 ago…loved it..anyone watching homeland on showtime?…pretty good too

  • 29 azbballfan // Dec 31, 2012 at 6:47 am

    I know we won a game a few years ago in on the road in OKC but this Suns team, right now………..confidence is so important and its impossible to feel that way when

    1. The team is lacking talent and consistency

    2. Our front office is not on the same page with Coach Gentry. The front office wants Gentry to both somehow win games and develop players. Instead of saying this will be a player development year, and play the young guys we drafted

    Marshall has seen no real time, and Morris time on the court is inconsistent at best

    even worse than that, neither of them seem to possess the kind of transcendent talent that would make them into players that become franchise cornerstones

    3. your team has lost 12 of its last 16 games and you have had the easiest schedule in the league so far this year

    4. Your team is in this position because it gutted a team that was one player away from a possible title run just 3 years ago.

    5. You got nothing for Stoudemire, totally no value and did the Lakers a favor by gift wrapping Nash

    Got nothing for Shaq

    drafted Serge Ibaka, Loul Deng, Rajon Rondo, Nate Robinson, Rudy Fernandez

    and traded them for nothing

    threw Steve Kerr out and made it so that no one with any real experience would come in to the Suns

  • 30 Polish_fan // Dec 31, 2012 at 6:59 am

    dang! i didnt know about that drafts ;))) Thats sucks man ;) it would be a nice team though

  • 31 azbballfan // Dec 31, 2012 at 7:06 am

    I just got a good trade on the ESPN trade machine

    Telfair, Johnson,, and Oneal going to OKC

    for Jeremy Lamb, Eric Maynor, and Hastheem Thabeet

    if the Suns were smart they would then trade Gortat for a lotto pick in this years and 2014 draft.

    Lamb cpuld come and play right away the suns were gonna pick him anyway but i think houston got him 1st in the draft

    maynor would replace telfair

    thabeet would replace oneal

    then go to the draft and add a defensive 3

    so Dragic, Lamb, Lotto Pick Guy, Beasley and Thabeet

    bench is Maynor, Brown, Tucker, Morris, Scola who else whoever comes in next year

  • 32 azbballfan // Dec 31, 2012 at 7:15 am

    Oops i accidently said to trade Gortat for two lotto picks

    OKC owns a pick from the Raptors that top 3 protected in this years 2013 draft

    Would OKC take Gortat and our pick from the Lakers for Perkins and their pick from Toronto?

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