Preview: Phoenix Suns (20-13) at Minnesota Timberwolves (17-17)

Posted by on January 8th, 11:00 am

Time: 7:30 p.m. MST

TV: ESPN

Suns

Timberwolves

The Phoenix Suns have more than earned the chance for some primetime TV billing, however, Wednesday’s season debut on ESPN, at least on paper, couldn’t come at a more inopportune time. Phoenix comes into its second game of a back-to-back and second game of a five-game road trip against the Minnesota Timberwolves reeling from a rather uninspiring effort against a short-handed Chicago Bulls team – one that resulted in a 92-87 loss.

While it appears that most things have not been on the Suns’ side over the last 48 hours, including the so-called ‘Polar Vortex’ which forced the team to take two flights Tuesday (one into Chicago and one out of Chicago), Jeff Hornacek’s squad at least has recent history in its favor heading into a matchup that could have implications in the Western Conference standings.

Phoenix has won three straight games on the second night of the back-to-back, here’s three questions that could go a long way in determining whether it will it make it four in a row in front of a national audience.

How much will Leandro Barbosa play if at all?

According to Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic, shooting guard Leandro Barbosa is expected to sign with the team and be available at the Target Center Wednesday night.

The last time Barbosa donned the purple and orange was Game Six of the 2010 Western Conference Finals, so there is definitely a level of intrigue among basketball fans in the Valley as to how much the 31-year-old still has left in the tank. If he does see time against the T-Wolves it will mark the Brazilian Blur’s first NBA action since tearing his ACL as a member of the Boston Celtics last February.

Phoenix could have certainly used a spark off its bench in Tuesday night’s five-point loss to Chicago. The question is can Barbosa, who has only played in eight games over the last year with Esporte Clube Pinheiros of the Brazilian NBB League, fill that role if called upon in Minneapolis?

Will Marcus Morris wake up any time soon?

Outside of Ish Smith’s 10-point performance at the United Center, not a single bench contributor had much of a positive impact in Tuesday night’s defeat.

While that assessment isn’t an indictment of any one particular player, it’s safe to say the Suns are much better team when Marcus Morris is playing well. And of late, he has not to say the least.

In fact, to call his last six games the worst stretch of the season would be a mild understatement. Outside of an 18-point, seven-rebound effort in a 115-101 win over the Philadelphia Sixers back on Dec. 28, Morris has been ice cold from the field. Over the last week, Morris has scored a combined 14 points on a woeful 4-of-27 from the field.

Everyone is entitled to a shooting slump here and there during an 82-game season, but in Morris’ case, a few more looks at the basket and a few more trips to the charity stripe could do him a world of good. Settling for contested jump shots has been an exercise of futility lately for the third-year forward.

Can the Suns neutralize half of the Timberwolves’ frontcourt?

Win or lose Wednesday night, odds are Kevin Love will record his 30th double-double of the season. The two-time All-Star is putting up MVP-caliber numbers (26.4 points, 13.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game) at the moment and doesn’t appear to be showing any signs of slowing down.

The goal against Minnesota should not be so much to slow down Love, because he’s likely going to find different ways to be effect the outcome, but rather to make his frontcourt mate, Nikola Pekovic, a non-factor. To do so, it’ll require some combination of Miles Plumlee, Alex Len, Channing Frye and Markieff Morris to keep him off the boards at all costs. Like Love, Pekovic is a pest on the glass (ranked No. 2 in the league in offensive rebounds per game), as he uses his powerful 285-pound frame to effectively keep possessions alive and/or convert on easy garbage buckets.

Love will get his, but if Pekovic doesn’t, it could be a long night for a T-Wolves team that doesn’t particularly shoot it particularly twell from the field (43.4 percent) or from distance (34.6 percent).

Dave Dulberg

Dave Dulberg is a ValleyoftheSuns staff writer who recently graduated from the University of Southern California. He also works as a web content writer/editor for Arizona Sports 620 KTAR.

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Tags: Leandro Barbosa · Minnesota Timberwolves · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Preview

14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 matheus croos // Jan 8, 2014 at 11:53 am

    My first opportunity to see the Suns this season. With timezone games here in Brazil are after midnight (like tonigth’s game) but with ESPN (because the return of Leandrinho), tonight will be a long nigth: sleeping only four hours and finally see a game Suns after a long time (without having to go to a horrible Russian website to see some live moves )

  • 2 matheus croos // Jan 8, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Oh! I forgot: GO SUNS!!!!

  • 3 Rengaw // Jan 8, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    I think the number one weakness of the Suns is in the rebounding department.

    While the Sun’s are firing up the threes, it is rare to see any player besides Tucker hitting the offensive glass.

    On the defensive glass, they do a poor job of boxing out .
    It will be interesting to see how the Suns box out the TWolves bigmen as they are a couple of the best I the NBA.

  • 4 sunsn7 // Jan 8, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Right on Croos! Welcome back Leandro and…

    GO SUNS! Dont get punked in the paint!

  • 5 the real Al // Jan 8, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    @rengaw

    You think??!!!!!

    Its why this team loses. The defensive boards is absolutely killing this team and its sad to see.

    I mean c’mon, its basketball 101, put a body on someone and block the F@#k out! Its really not that hard.

    They need to man up quick becus this is getting ridiculous.

  • 6 Al // Jan 8, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    I’ll blame jet lag for last night’s lost to the Bulls…and rebounding. The whole team was just uninspired in the 3rd. No points in the first 4 mins of 3rd. No one wanted to shoot and kept passing the ball around. Why doesn’t Kieff take 3pt shots anymore? He can make those from top of key. It was obvious the team was out of it when Frye got in REALLY early foul trouble. Goran was the only spark in the game. Also, I guess the team didn’t have the scouting report on Tony Snell either.
    The PF’s need to box out and protect rim better or else the Sun’s are looking at a 4-5 game losing streak.

  • 7 EBJM // Jan 8, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Green sure didn’t have any problems with shooting the ball as he seemed to forget his place and started forcing some shots.

    Plumlee missed everything that was beyond a foot away from the basket (six shots).

    Christmas was totally ineffective on the offensive end.

    Markieff had a miserable night shooting.

    The game came down to Taj Gibson out-playing Frye and Markieff and Tony Snell lighting up whoever kept leaving him open, Marcus or Christmas.

    That was a superb draft pick by Chicago with a #20 pick. He is one of the main reasons along with Jimmy Butler as to why the Bulls chose not to over-pay Luol Deng. That kid can shoot the ball.

  • 8 sunsn7 // Jan 8, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Charles Barkley had a rather effective rebounding strategy. He called it: “Just go get the damn ball!”

    You just have to want it. Suns’ll get after it tonight. Plumlee, Frye, Morris twins need to combine for at least 35 rebounds. That’s reasonable too, Just ask Coach Hornacek…

  • 9 BUTLER // Jan 8, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    The current lack of overall size makes the Suns somewhat vulnerable. If only they had a 7’1″ center with long arms and a lot of upside to mix in with this group.

  • 10 Foreveris2long // Jan 8, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    Hey EBJM, I was selling Snell’s stock since March Madness as he is a Southern California kid (Riverside)with range and a decent defender. Reggie Miller, also a Riverside product, is also really high on his game but wants him to be more selfish.

  • 11 hawki // Jan 8, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Funny stuff Butler

    Forever….Snell definitely has a future

  • 12 sunsn7 // Jan 8, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    PURPLE CHURCH congregates!

  • 13 BUTLER // Jan 8, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    Hey Hawki hope you’re enjoying something sweet and sticky

  • 14 Phoenix Suns 104, Minnesota Timberwolves 103 -- Gerald's big shot // Jan 8, 2014 at 10:44 pm

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