Phoenix Suns 84, Minnesota Timberwolves 83 (OT) -- Winning ugly

Wesley Johnson #2 of the Phoenix Suns shoots against the Minnesota Timberwolves on February 26, 2013 at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

Wesley Johnson #2 of the Phoenix Suns shoots against the Minnesota Timberwolves on February 26, 2013 at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Interim head coach Lindsey Hunter finished his four-minute postgame press conference and walked off the podium with a slight grin on his face.

“I’ll finally be able to sleep a little easier,” Hunter said. “At least tonight I’ll have some good game film to watch.”

While good might be a slight exaggeration to describe the Suns’ 84-83 overtime victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday night, Hunter’s squad found a way to win a game despite its best effort to give the contest away.

It wasn’t pretty or terribly thrilling or a great display of progress, but following an underwhelming three-game losing streak, Hunter admitted he’ll take the outcome because in the NBA, a win is a win is a win.

After the Suns and Timberwolves combined for 31 points and 10 turnovers over the first 12 minutes of play, Phoenix’s reserves took over in the second quarter.  Jermaine O’Neal and Wesley Johnson ignited an 8-0 run to start the second period and with a little over a minute to play in the first half the Suns had built an 18-point lead.

Although initially it looked like yet another stroke of luck for Phoenix, Andrei Kirilenko’s calf strain injury (suffered in the first quarter) turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Rick Adelman and Co.

Adelman began the second half with a three-guard lineup of Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea and Luke Ridnour, and while the trio finished the night 12-of-40 from the field, Phoenix struggled to adjust to Minnesota’s speed.

The Timberwolves also went almost exclusively to a 2-3 zone in the third quarter, and the Suns shot right in to the schematic change. Phoenix couldn’t buy a bucket (shooting 25 percent for the period) and finished with a season-low 11 points. Minnesota didn’t exactly scorch the nets either, but the Suns’ 18-point lead was whittled down to seven heading into the fourth quarter.

“In the third quarter they went to a zone, and we had some trouble with that,” Goran Dragic said of the team’s early second half slide. “We were just missing shots, and they were scoring and I think we lost a little bit of our confidence.”

Johnson and Markieff Morris, the team’s two most confident scorers all night,  hit back-to-back three-point shots to extend Phoenix’s lead back to 13 early in the fourth quarter, but the wheels slowly fell off from there for the Suns.

Rubio assisted on six of Minnesota’s next seven baskets, the Suns missed nine of their next 10 shots (with their only make coming on an emphatic Johnson put-back dunk) and J.J. Barea capped a 16-3 run with a corner three to knot the game up at 71 with 4:25 remaining.

While Morris almost single-handedly cost the Suns a victory down the stretch — he committed two turnovers and a sixth fou,l which sent Dante Cunningham to the line for a go-ahead free throw with 90 seconds left — Phoenix was bailed out by a beautiful Dragic pass that set up Gortat’s game-tying two-foot bunny with 13.6 seconds to go in regulation.

The first 48 minutes couldn’t decide a victor between two teams going nowhere fast, and Tuesday night’s extra session did little to put either in a positive light.

Phoenix held the Timberwolves to 2-of-8 shooting in overtime, Johnson finished off an impressive performance (14 points, nine rebounds and two steals) against his former team with two gorgeous assists, and the Suns managed to squeak out a one-point win and their first at home since a 92-86 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers back on Jan. 30.

“I just felt good being out there playing,” Johnson said. “It just so happened to be them that I played against, but I was just happy getting in minutes and being out there.”

Johnson said his time on the pine early in the season reminded him of the year he was forced to sit out in college after transferring from Iowa State to Syracuse. While his start in Phoenix may have been delayed, his play is likely to increase in the coming weeks as he’s certainly found a fan in his head coach.

“He was great,” Hunter said of Johnson’s performance against Minnesota. “He was great on both ends of the floor. I think it’s a little different for him because he had to guard a point guard tonight. That is a different feel for him.  He did well. He used his legs, had some key steals and he rebounded the ball really well.

“I hope this can continue to catapult him into growing as a player and just really see how good he can be. He has all the tools by far. It’s just good for him to contribute the way he did tonight.”

AND 1…

  • Former Arizona star Derrick Williams led the Timberwolves in scoring with 21 points but was 3-of-10 from the charity stripe. For the Suns, Jermaine O’Neal notched a double-double (10 points and 13 rebounds) for the third time in his last six games.
  • Shannon Brown sat out his fifth straight game due to a coach’s decision, and Lindsey Hunter discussed the situation during his pre-game media session. “The beginning of the season, you know, everyone saw pretty much what you could do,” said Hunter.  “Now, other guys are getting opportunities, and now we want to see what they have there. I think that’s fair. It might not feel fair at times, but it’s pretty fair.”
  • The Suns had hoped the acquisition of Marcus Morris at the trade deadline would rejuvenate his older brother Markieff’s game. Through three contests it’s done just that. The former No. 13 overall pick is averaging 11.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game since his brother’s arrival.
  • Phoenix is now 2-2 in overtime games season. The Suns’ last OT win came on November 23 against the New Orleans Hornets.

Tags: Lindsey Hunter Minnesota Timberwolves Phoenix Suns Recap Wesley Johnson

  • BoomShakaLuka

    Why couldn’t they just lose? Yeesh.

  • the real shazam

    craziest season ever..i find myself pulling for a loss and then being upset when they win…wow i feel like im on Jupiter

  • SkyBill40

    I hate to say it, but Shannon Brown is getting screwed here. He is a better player than Johnson at this point and for him to just get benched and not even a sniff of minutes is silly. If the plan was to use Johnson more and not even give Brown some backup burn, why did we hold on to him?
    What a waste. The FO and dipshit owner are apparently out to alienate the fans and make the players even more resentful than thay may already be.

  • SkyBill40

    I hate to say it, but Shannon Brown is getting screwed here. He is a better player than Johnson at this point and for him to just get benched and not even a sniff of minutes is silly. If the plan was to use Johnson more and not even give Brown some backup burn, why did we hold on to him?
    What a waste. The FO and dipshit owner are apparently out to alienate the fans and make the players even more resentful than they may already be.

    • BoomShakaLuka

      @SkyBill40 It’s a facade so the Suns can tank.

      • SkyBill40

        @BoomShakaLuka That wouldn’t surprise me, but that’s a deplorable “strategy” for sure. For a team to lose intentionally merely to increase their draft position is everything that’s wrong with the system as it currently exists. One has to wonder about San Antonio so many moons ago when Tim Duncan was the premier pick in the draft. The same can’t be said this year when there’s no clear cut/completely above the rest player to be had that makes tanking worth it.

    • 4everis2long

      @SkyBill40 SkyBill in a way I agree with you that Brown is getting the short end of the stick but he probably realizes he is not part of the big picture for the future. I do not think he is as good a defender and rebounder as Johnson. Whether Johnson is as good a shooter remains to be seen as Brown. I think Brown is having a sub par year shooting.
      I think the big problem this issue presents is why would a decent free agent come to the Suns this summer while they are still rebuilding knowing they too could be benched next season so the team can learn what they have in a rookie or second year player. This is a dangerous game to play in totally shutting down Brown. I hope in a couple of weeks they give Brown some time and maybe sit Dudley for a week. It is really tough because Hunter is fighting for a job while auditioning players. They have to make a tough decision on whether to extend Johnson this summer.

      • SkyBill40

        @4everis2long  I’m sure this isn’t what got Brown to re-sign for another year when he could have gone elsewhere. While he’s streaky, he’s got starter quality in him if given the opportunity. Brown’s problem is that he spent too much time behind Kobe and picking up his bad habits. Just because you’re a decent shooter as well as quickness and hops doesn’t mean you go iso every time you get the ball. The sooner he gets that, the better off he’ll be.
        I feel bad for Dudley, too. We still had something decent when he signed onto another contract. Now, to have your name swirling in rumors and not getting as much run as before? Disheartening, for sure. If they do make a trade, they need to do him the same favor they did for Nash and reward him for being loyal when he could have gone elsewhere.
        I’m still not entirely sold on Johnson. He was a #6 pick at one time not too long ago, so I hope he’s able to put it together and do something with his talent. We’ve got a former #2 pick on the roster who surprisingly has yet to wash out of the league. Then again, if Kwame Brown is still in the league….

      • DBreezy

        @4everis2long  @SkyBill40 The Suns were already likely a tough sell for free agents last summer.  They like to parrot the Gordon signing, but a rfa signing an offer sheet is rarely earth shattering news.  Especially when that rfa was choosing between two rebuilding situations with one being close to his brother and didn’t attract any other offers due to his injury history and probably because of attitude concerns.  The only unrestricted free agent of import probably was Mayo and he wasn’t feeling the situation here.
          I would imagine now that players and agents have gotten a clearer picture of where the Suns are in the rebuilding process that most will steer far clear of this place other than using them as a way to better offers and interest elsewhere.  Internally, I’m sure former agent Babby is well aware of this.  My guess is that they aren’t worried about guys like Telfair, Brown and O’Neal because they’ve already decided that they won’t be here next season.  The only reason O’Neal is still here is because he personally declined a buyout the Suns seemed willing to do which is probably why they reversed course on waiving Hadaddi. I can’t remember if Shannon’s deal is fully guaranteed for next season, but he’s probably a stretch candidate.  I suppose the timing of such a move would likely depend on if he’s fully guaranteed or not by a certain date.
          In the quest to preserve/maximize cap space,it wouldn’t surprise me if they ended bringing Wes back next season after getting rebuffed by other suitors.  I can’t imagine that he would have commanded much money/years under the old cba and he’ll probably be available for at or near the vet min this summer.  There’s a good chance next season will be uglier than this one, with guys like Scola, Gortat, and Dudley moved this offseason for picks/cap space/more young players who’ve failed elsewhere.  In light of that, I personally can’t get too concerned about guys like Shannon not getting burn.  The time to rebuild while remaining competitive ended several seasons ago despite the lip service Babby pays to it.  Their past moves have put them on the roller coaster ride of depending largely on high lottery picks to come in and fix this over time.

        • SkyBill40

          @DBreezy  @4everis2long Sadly, you are more correct than many would like to admit. The ownership and FO have turned our proud franchise into a laughingstock with no true signs of turning the situation around.
          If Gortat, Dudley, and Scola are sent packing, they might as well fold the team. I doubt they would get anything significant in return or to even balance out what we’re losing in those three players. PHX will soon become the dumping ground for bad contracts and sub par players.
          As for Brown, I’m not sure of his contract situation and if/when it becomes fully guaranteed. My guess is that like the others mentioned, he too is moved in the offseason. Johnson will more than likely be brought back on the cheap. I figure that soon all we’ll have on our roster are cast off lottery picks who never hit their potential. Beasley and Marshall (and Johnson, maybe) are the posterboys for that.

  • ojai1980

    What just happened? Has anyone seen the clip of Manu Ginobli and James Harden flopping at the same time. That’s how this game felt. Both teams seemed to be faking it, just doing their best to lose. Go Suns.

  • DBreezy

    Man that was rough watching, kinda of like the movie Kids…

    • BoomShakaLuka

      @DBreezy Lmao

    • 4everis2long

      @DBreezy Tonight’s game is the one I am afraid to watch. This will be a true SCARY MOVIE.

      • BoomShakaLuka

        @4everis2long @DBreezy I was thinking Groundhog Day.

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