Timberwolves pull away from Suns late for 98-85 victory
PHOENIX, AZ - Minnesota found a fourth quarter to build on Friday.
The Timberwolves held the Phoenix Suns without a field goal over the final nine minutes and took advantage of mismatches on the offensive end for a 98-85 victory at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns scored 14 of their combined 27 points in the final seven minutes while the Timberwolves limited the Suns to 2-of-16 shooting from the floor in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota (5-10) finished the game on a 24-5 run.
"That was our best fourth quarter of the year," Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said.
"The defense was good. Offensively we made the extra pass. Wiggins was attacking downhill. I thought Karl was terrific. The ball pressure was better and our protection was better."
Wiggins had 25 points and made his final four field-goal attempts after starting 4-for-14, and Towns had 22 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
Zach LaVine had 13 points and Gorgui Dieng and Ricky Rubio had 11 points apiece as the Timberwolves closed the game with a rush after forward P.J. Tucker's free throw gave the Suns an 80-74 lead with 7:13 remaining.
Phoenix guard Eric Bledsoe had 23 points and 10 assists and Brandon Knight added 15 points as the Suns (5-12) lost for the third time in four games.
Towns had seven of the first 11 points in the Timberwolves' final run while working against Suns rookie Marquese Chriss. Wiggins hit three jumpers including a 3-pointer in the final four minutes, matching up against guard Devin Booker.
"We just played with a lot of effort," Towns said. "We made up for a lot of mistakes we did make in the fourth quarter with pure effort and energy. I knew my teammates needed me to make some shots and be very aggressive."
Bledsoe scored nine straight Suns' points in a 13-5 run for a 69-56 lead with five minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Suns' biggest lead.
Knight made his third straight start in a three-guard lineup necessitated by the absence of small forward T.J. Warren, who missed his third straight game with what the Suns are calling a minor head injury. That made for a difficult matchup against Wiggins, 6-foot-8.
"It always hurts worse when you blow a lead," Booker said. "It stings. We came into this game feeling like it was a must-win for us and we didn't get it."
Minnesota shot only 40 percent, making 34-of-85 field goal attempts, but stayed in the game by making 23-of-25 free throws.
The Timberwolves are shooting 39.9 percent in their last four games.
Booker had 11 points and Alex Len had six points and 11 rebounds. The Suns had a 48-39 rebounding edge but committed a season-high 25 turnovers, seven in the fourth quarter.
"They got really aggressive on defense (and) we let not scoring affect our defense," Suns coach Earl Watson said. "For us, it's not offense, it's defense. Defense is the key. Tonight was a great example of why."
Minnesota point guard Tyus Jones had six points, three assists and two steals while playing all 12 minutes in the fourth quarter.
The Suns' only points in the final 5 1-2 minutes came on three free throws by Bledsoe and two by Knight.
"Turnovers, defense, the whole nine," Bledsoe said. "We did everything possible to this game tonight, which we had control of."
NOTES: Suns C Tyson Chandler had six points and seven rebounds in 11:23 of playing time in his first game since Nov. 18. He had missed seven of the previous eight games following the passing of his mother on Nov. 8. ... Suns F T.J. Warren has said he expects to miss two weeks with his minor head injury. He has not played since Nov. 18, when he started but logged only nine minutes at Indiana.