Phoenix Suns 127, Minnesota Timberwolves 120 -- Staring at death

Apparently, the Phoenix Suns need to stare death in the eye to see just how close they are to missing the playoffs. A miserably slow start, especially on the defensive end, made a rally necessary Sunday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Markieff Morris swiped at Kevin Love, who for the second time in a row put it on himself to make a play out of the elbow. With 48 seconds left, Love lost the ball, and Goran Dragic fed it upcourt to Eric Bledsoe for a layup that broke a 118-all tie.

That’s how Phoenix polished off a stolen game in Minneapolis to stay a half-game back of the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference playoff race.

Perhaps the Suns punched back from a 22-point deficit because there was so much game left thereafter.

Minnesota led by 22 less than three minutes into the second quarter as Phoenix came out of the gates facing backward. Bledsoe picked up two quick fouls defending Ricky Rubio, Channing Frye got beaten up by a determined Kevin Love, and nobody other than Goran Dragic could make much of an impact on either end.

The bench unit eventually scraped away all the crud left on the court by the starters, but the Suns needed its two point guards and Morris to make up the rest of the ground. Morris gave Phoenix a punch from the power forward slot, scoring 15 of his team-high 25 in the first half, and Ish Smith attacked from his first minute of playing time.

Finally the Suns had some pop in their legs.

Trailing 73-62 at halftime, Phoenix got within 85-80 in the middle of the third quarter, but the T-wolves quickly extended the lead back to double-digits.

And as it became clear that the Suns’ bigs couldn’t succeed on either end, Hornacek simply went away from playing bigs at all. Phoenix went a stretch of the fourth quarter with a combination of the Morris twins, Gerald Green, P.J. Tucker and the two point guards to make Minnesota’s big men defend out to the perimeter.

Dragic finished off a 10-0 run with a three-pointer that gave the Suns a 107-106 lead with just seven minutes remaining, and after some back-and-forth, the defense allowing 57 percent shooting through 24 minutes came to life in the final minutes.

In the fourth quarter, Minnesota hit 23 percent (5-of-21) from the floor while Phoenix outscored it 34-17. And that was that.

The Bledsoe factor showed after he returned from foul trouble. He scored 20 points to go with five assists while piling up a plus-28 plus-minus score — no other Sun finished higher than P.J. Tucker’s plus-14 — and Dragic added 18 and six dimes.

Will the Suns keep Dieng and Love off the glass?

Not a bit in the first half. Kevin Love was more than halfway to a triple-double after the first quarter, and Minnesota scored 15 second-chance points in the first half. Love eventually cooled down. He scored 36 points and had 14 boards, but went 11-for-27 from the floor.

When the Suns went small, Dieng found himself on the bench despite putting in an effective six points and nine rebounds. And Phoenix ended up out-rebounding Minnesota 42-38, catching up in second-chance points to lose that battle just 21-16.

How easily do the shots come for Phoenix?

Quite easily, but it didn’t matter much early on. Phoenix shot 61 percent in the first half but still trailed by 11 points thanks to 57 percent yielded to the T-Wolves — and then all the second opportunities provided by Love and Dieng.

The Suns ended up shooting 57.5 percent for the game and holding the T-Wolves to just 44 percent.

Will Frye or Markieff Morris provide a spark?

Frye was part of a starting unit that couldn’t get up for the early start, and he scored six points and picked up four fouls in just 15 minutes.

Markieff Morris, on the other hand, continued to have success against the Timberwolves. He pumped in 15 points in the first half as the second unit chipped away at the Minnesota lead. Morris hit 10-of-13 from the floor and hit all three of his three-point attempts.

Markieff also added two blocks and five boards to lead Phoenix. Brother Marcus also played well, scoring 11 for the game as the Suns attempted to make it a game.

  • the real al

    So the wolves beat Dallas yesterday, lose to the Suns today… They need to do us one more favor and beat ghe Grizz tomorrow..

    In terms of the game, that Suns defense though!!…YEP DEFENSE! – finally showed up at the right place and at the right time. Its what won them the game (IMO)

    Lets get another tomorrow at Atlanta.

  • the real al

    Ohhh and being 22 pts down, only to comeback and win it?!..pffffffft – im at a lost for words man…. #trueresiliency

  • vtsunrise

    I’m so glad the Suns came roaring back and so disappointed in myself for bailing on the game after briefly checking in late in the 3rd quarter.

    The desperation wild card could keep this team in the running. But at this point, I think, it’s largely about momentum. If they can keep extending this winning streak, the confidence and momentum could build and build.

  • EBJM

    Lets revisit my pregame comments on what it will take for the Suns to win!

    “Channing Frye plays less than 20 minutes and the Suns win!”

    So after only 15 minutes and Love turning Frye into his bitch, Hornacek sits him and the Suns manly PF Markieff comes in and wins the game for Phoenix!

  • sunsn7

    They needed a blowout win like this. Missed the game but nice to see the end result!

  • EBJM

    “Blowout”? The Wolves were blowing the Suns out by 22 before Hornacek finally sat Frye. Game was tied at 118 and Suns didn’t take control until there were less than eight minutes left in the game.

    I guess you were too busy blowing David:/32 to notice!

  • foreveris2long

    It was a great comeback. It had 80% of my attention while Kentucky had the other 20%. The suns absolutely are a cohesive unit dying to make the playoffs.

    Pac 12 looking good in March Madness. Huge Stanford win today.

  • Dave:f32

    Dont get jealous E! She likes the way i taste haha

  • Dave:f32

    Gorgui Dieng was drafted #21 in the 2013 NBA Draft. He was still available when the Suns selected Alex Len at #5.

    Did you know ;

    On March 20, 2014, in a game against the Houston Rockets, Dieng recorded 22 points and 21 rebounds, the first ever 20-20 game by a rookie in Timberwolves’ franchise history.

    He is also just the sixth player since the NBA began tracking starts in 1970 to have at least 20 points and 20 rebounds within his first three career starts.

    In the 2011–12 season, Dieng led the Big East Conference in blocks, and set the all-time school record for blocks in a season.

  • Dave:f32

    Alex Len vs. Gorgui Dieng

    Higher ceiling?

    Who will be more successful over the lifetime of their careers?

    Who has the greater impact for the team they respectively play for?

  • Dave:f32

    Gorgui Dieng gets my vote.

  • Andrew

    Im glad Horny sat down Frye. It was horrible the way he was getting schooled by Love. If Frye cant get his shot going in his first 2-3 attempts then Horny better sit him cause he has been pretty much useless against bigs lately on the defensive end

  • Andrew

    I’ll give Len the benefit of the doubt until he has has a full training camp/preseason

  • EBJM

    I hear ya David:F32 but it is all water under the bridge at this point. Alex Len will really have to start producing when guys like Dieng come in posting 20/20s.

    But seriously did anybody think he was any better than Hasheem Thabeet or Bismack Biyombo?

    The lesson to be learned though is that you can draft well and find great players late in the draft.

    I’d rather McD use all his picks this summer just in case he strikes gold late in the draft.

  • phx suns fan in la

    Watching the mavs game now 57 67 mavs up 3 mins left in the 3rd

  • phx suns fan in la

    Game update 81 83 dallas up 4 30 left in the 4th

  • phx suns fan in la

    Joe johnson ties is up in the 4th 8 seconds left 91 91 dallas ball

  • phx suns fan in la

    100 95 Brooklyn up 2 16 to play in overtime

  • Raffi AKA Anonymous

    WOO. Dallas loses. We are now 1/2 game back from memph and dallas.

  • phx suns fan in la

    107 104 nets win it after ellis made back 2 back 3s crazy game

  • Andrew

    Nets did a huge favor to the Suns. Lets hope the Suns take care of business tomorrow in ATL

  • Dan S

    Awesome, now Phx only .5 game back of Dallas and Mephis..only 2.5 from GSW too!!

  • Dan S

    Got Atl, Wiz and NY, then LA the rest of the month. All winnable games, which we need cause April is tough with Sacto and Pelicans as the only easier teams!

  • foreveris2long

    Regarding Dieng and Len, I liked Dieng a lot and if Len was gone I could have understood if the Suns went a number of directions but I do not think anyone thought Dieng was worthy of a top 5 pick. Dieng is going to be a very good player in the NBA. While I can understand comparing him with Len, I think it is unfair today with Len coming off two ankle surgeries going probably 8 months without playing basketball.

    Today in particular Len looked liked a big St. Bernard falling all over the place and not being very productive. However I think when he gets stronger, more game experience and a full offseason of training he is going to be more impressive next season. I won’t compare them until maybe the allstar break next season. It is convenient to trash him now but I suggest deferring until maybe this time next season.

    I suspect most of you knew that Nick Johnson is the nephew of the late Dennis Johnson. It is amazing how exceptional hops run in the family. Arizona, UCLA and Stanford all are impressive in the tourney.

    Great recap on Mavs falling, phx suns fan in la. Today was a great day on Planet Orange. Let’s see if we can follow it up tomorrow.

  • john

    Dieng and Len is pointless this early. I had dieng as a 11-15 and Len as a 6-10. I still like len’s ceiling better, but no one can predict the future.

    Glad I watched the 4th. That was an awful game, but a great win.

  • sunsn7

    Hey EBJM, the ESPN caption initially said 127-100 so I left a comment in response to my email alert without reading the article as i was busy earlier today..but speaking of “blowing”, you can get off the dick now

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    finding a rotation player on a late first round pick is always a gem

    Hopefully, since the Suns spent the 5th pick on Len he will turn out to be a very good center

    and i think he will be, people might love goran dragic right now, but anyone remember him when he was a rookie?

    The Suns gotta pick up their defense and sit Frye and start Markieff Morris

    Frye had a nice follow dunk, but he struggles with defending, and unless he is hitting 3s he doesnt do much else on the floor.

    Plumlee also had a poor game

    he hasnt had a double double since January

    the Suns might move ahead at the beginning of April, but they will miss the playoffs if they keep playing awful defense and letting teams get alot of second chance buckets

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    I just looked up Diengs age, he is 24 years old, so maybe we should come back to this when Len is 24?

  • Scott

    I think Dieng will be a solid starting center. He was one of my favorites in the last draft.

    As for this game today against the Wolves … normally you would pick the team that scores 30+ points off of turnovers, 32 points at the FT line, 41 points in the first quarter, and 120 points overall to be the winner.

    This was a hard fought game, and I’m amazed the Suns won it.

    Tomorrow they’ll play in Atlanta, and I hope Ish, Frye, Len, Randolph, Plumlee, and Goodwin play well enough there to get a lot of minutes, as I think the rest of the players will be spent from the game in Minnie.

  • sunsn7

    Yes Ellensburg, I was on record in support of Dragic all along. Vehemently criticized trading him away for small baller Aaron Brooks and was ecstatic when the Suns brought him back to Phoenix..but yes, I remember the “scrub” references to Dragic very well.

    Im sure many Suns fans are glad they were wrong about Dragic. Many gave up on Robin Lopez too. It’s safe to say many of the same skeptics are sitting on the jury that has already judged Alex Len as a bust…and Channing Frye as a valuable asset.

  • Dave:f32

    Ever since the Colangelos left, these Suns teams, and this current

    Suns squad in particular, are like the proverbial mirage in the desert.

    Yeah, these Suns score a ton of points, as they did under Dantoni and Gentry, and now with Hornacek.

    Yeah, they are simewhat entertaining, with the exception of this squad (not my preference as i prefer true stars on court i got spoiled with those Amare, Nash, Marion, Joe Johnson days when they would run up the score to 20 points and keep that lead all through the games).

    But like a mirage, the image only looks good to disguise the big patch of dirt underneath the optical illusion of being real. Like an oasis with water, only to be disappointed that you fell for the illusion.

    Been waiting awhile now as a lifetime Suns fan….yet no championship to speak of. Lots of points scored, but no real defenses.

    The media will write all these goodfeel articles after a Suns win, but when they lose nothing but crickets and excuses.

  • SarverHater22

    Very smart Suns , very smart , you guys just made it even more difficult for us to snag Minny’s first rounder this year …
    I heard Minny’s 2915 first rounder is even the same as this year’s stipulation , a top 13 protected pick again !
    Credit to Minny’s GM for inserting these nasty protections, lol , wish Sarver negotiated like this with Seattle and Atlanta in the no-so-distant-past .

  • SarverHater22

    Forget about the playoffs , doesnt anyone even remember about snagging Minnesota’s first rounder ? heheh

  • vtsunrise

    Yo, Dallas and Memphis,
    What’s that uncomfortable hot feeling on the back of your necks? Feeling a tad nervous? Yes, that’s the fire breathing Dragon and the rest of his upstart cohorts from Phoenix, daring you to make one false move.

    Rock on, rock on, game on!

    S-T-R-E-A-K-I-N-G and RISING!

    Did someone say SUNRISE!!!?

  • JK

    3 games in a row, not too bad. Hopefully Phoenix can keep this good stretch rolling! If the Suns can win 75% percent of the rest of their games they surely are a lock in one of the final playoff spots. Don’t let me down Suns!

  • john

    Minnesota’s 2015 is top 12 protected.

    The Nash Suns were comeback kids in the worst way. No one is saying this team is better than the Nash teams, but to be a Debbie downer on a team that is going to triple its predicted win total is beyond stupid.

  • Luka

    I’m glad Hornacek pulled a Jerry Sloan and only played Frye 15 minutes. That’s exactly what needed to happen for the Suns to win today. Kieff should get a chance to start after today’s performance.

  • john

    I don’t even think it’s arguable that Frye is better than ‘Kieff at this point, but I do think it’s arguable that ‘Kieff should be coming off the bench rather than Frye. ‘Kieff does such an outstanding job anchoring that second unit (along with his brother) in the late first, early second quarter.

    I don’t think of ‘Kieff coming off the bench as a sign that Horny thinks Frye is better or ‘Kieff isn’t one of his top 5 or anything like that. I think it’s a rotational thing. A chemistry thing. Similar to the way Ginobili has come off the bench for so many years for the Spurs.

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  • john

    Not sure why you’re so obsessed with rim jobs. What you do in your own bedroom should stay there.