Dec 29, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic (14) posts up against Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortat (4) during the second quarter at the Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns (18-39) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (20-33) Preview

The Phoenix Suns are falling fast . . . and in this dismal season that’s a good thing.

A worse overall record nets the Suns a better draft pick this off-season. In fact, with the Washington Wizards ugly 90-84 victory Monday night over the Toronto Raptors, Phoenix is now in sole position of the third-worst record in the NBA with 39 losses. Only two teams are worse than the Suns: the Orlando Magic (41 losses) and the Charlotte Bobcats (43 losses).

Unfortunately, the Suns will probably add a couple more losses to their column with the back-to-back games at home Tuesday against Minnesota then in San Antonio Wednesday to take on the Spurs.

However, Phoenix has a better chance to win the first game of the back-to-back, because it is against a lesser opponent and the Suns will hold home court advantage (for whatever that means these days in Arizona).

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been having problems finishing down the stretch of games recently losing the last two games. They lost to Oklahoma City then let the Golden State Warriors go on a 15-8 run in the fourth quarter Sunday and picked up another loss.

“We played well and gave ourselves a great chance to win. We just couldn’t finish it,” coach Rick Adelman said. “These are things we’ve got to learn from.”

Phoenix is also having trouble coming up with victories of late, as displayed by their 3-game losing streak since their win in Portland that started off the second-half of the season. The culprit in these losses seems to be a general team execution of the game of basketball.

“We just have to be smarter and just continue to get better execution-wise at both ends of the floor,” interim coach Lindsey Hunter said. “We’ll continue to chip away at getting better.”

The Suns are a 1.5 point underdog in this game according to ESPN. In reality it is a toss-up between two teams going different directions, but Minnesota’s rise to prominence has been temporarily derailed by injury.

For the Suns, only Michael Beasley shows up on the injury report. He injured his elbow Friday against Boston.

Kevin Love, the Timberwolves’ best player has been sidelined for a while with a broken hand, and may return in a couple more weeks. Chase Budinger is also on the injured list.

Keys To The Game: Suns

– Make Ricky Rubio a scorer. Rubio is second to none when it comes to setting up his teammates but he’s an awful scorer. Rubio is shooting 34% from the field on the season and an abysmal 12% from behind the three point line; yes 12%!

– Rebounding. The Wolves have got some solid rebounders on that team between Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko, and Derrick Williams. The Suns need to keep those three guys off the boards.

Keys To The Game: Timberwolves

– Give it to Derrick Williams! It seems like everything is starting to click for Williams. In his last five games, he’s averaging 17.2 points and 9.2 rebounds. Williams put up 23 points and 12 rebounds in the Wolves last loss to the Golden State Warriors.

– Dialing long distance! The Wolves have got to shoot better from beyond the arc, they’re ranked 28th in the NBA this season in three-pointers made, and are ranked dead last in three-point percentage.


– Bench play. The Wolves don’t have a lot of depth currently due to all the injuries. The Suns on the other hand are hosting auditions for all the young players.

Match-up of the game:

– I’m highly intrigued by the match-up between Luis Scola and Derrick Williams. Both guys will have issues guarding each other throughout the game because their offensive arsenals are worlds apart. Scola is the smart, savvy veteran and Williams is the young, athletic baller, it’ll be a good one no doubt about it.

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