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Game #45: It’s Always Sunny in Phoenix

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The Wolves Take On the Suns, Looking for the Season Sweep

Wolves at Suns
8:00 pm CST
FS North

According to the vegter21 research labs, the Timberwolves always win in Phoenix. At least this season. Yes, one away game against the Suns is a small sample size, but we’re currently living in the era of “alternative facts.” Whether it’s one win or 1.5 million wins, we’re going to go ahead and say that the Wolves always win in Arizona. Agreed?

For the first time in 13 years, the Timberwolves are going for the season sweep of the lowly Suns. What’s that, you say? The Suns are only a game behind the Wolves? That can’t be correct. Regardless of your “facts” the Wolves have turned the corner. They’ve been killing it since the mythical game against the Bulls in mid-December. No chance the Suns stand a chance. Sorry, I cut you off. What was that?

The Suns are five and five in their last ten games? But that’s the same record as the Timberwolves. They must have been playing terrible teams. Who could they have won against? The Knicks? Come on, they’re a dumpster fire. The Raptors? Okay, well they’re doing pretty well but they’re still an Eastern Conference team. Wait, did you say the Spurs? The Suns handed the Spurs one of their nine losses? That can’t be right. Let me double check with the research labs.

The Suns are following a similar storyline to the Wolves this season. Mid-December, the Suns were sitting at 8-21, with some disastrous losses along the way. In particular, there was an 18 point loss to the Brooklyn Nets in November, which reminds me of another team that I frequently watch and write about...

Since that time, the Suns are 7-8, with some notable wins mentioned above. Over a similar time period the Wolves are 9-9, however, the first win during that stretch was attained by beating the Suns and by the emergence of the Dunn Block (which needs a catchier name, by the way. ‘He Dunn Did It,’ possibly? I don’t know. Help me out).

During this stretch of games, there have been positives displayed by both teams. The Wolves have held seven of their last twelve opponents under 100 points, giving my dumb brain hope that Thib’s dust has finally started to infect the team. Meanwhile, the Suns have scored over 101 points in their last eight straight games and have had a few players with standout performances.

Devin Booker - The second year shooting guard out of Kentucky has scored more than 20 points per game for the last nine games. He doesn’t do much besides scoring, averaging only 2.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, but he’s been shooting fireballs lately.

Eric Bledsoe - Bledsoe scored a career-high 40 points against the Raptors, shooting 11-17 from the field, 14-14 from the line, and diming out 13 assists. He’s also averaging over 20 points a game this season along with 5.1 board and 6.2 assists. He’s strong and generally scares me entering into tonight.

Tyson Chandler’s Beard - Chandler grabbed 16 rebounds in the Suns win against the Knicks, marking the seventh game in a row that he’s had more than 15 rebounds. The streak was broken against the Raptors, where he only had nine boards to go along with his 16 points. He’s a big, scary man and his beard intimidates me.

Dragan Bender - I know very, very little about the Suns rookie, but his name is Dragan Bender, which is immediately a cause for concern. Even if he’s out with injury, I’m still concerned about the impacts of a Dragan.

This isn’t to say that all is lost. The Wolves continue to show signs of life, but I’ve been burned by overconfidence in game previews before (i.e. the dumpster fire that was the Dallas game), and this seems like a classic trap game for the Wolves. It’s away from home, after a big victory against the Nugs, and (probably) without the presence of their spiritual unicorn. Let’s take a closer look at the “actual facts” before making any sort of prediction:

Expected Starting Lineups

Timberwolves

PG - Ricky Rubio

SG - Zach LaVine

SF - Andrew Wiggins

PF - Gorgui Dieng

C - Karl-Anthony Towns

Injuries: Nikola Pekovic is out (achilles).

Suns

PG - Eric Bledsoe

SG - Devin Booker

SF - TJ Warren

PF - Marquese Chriss

C - Tyson Chandler

Injuries: Dragan Bender is questionable (ankle, fire breath)

Four Factors

As we always do in game previews, let’s take a look at how the Wolves and Suns match up using the Four Factors. Reminder, the Four Factors are effective field goal percentage (eFG%), turnover percentage (TOV%), offensive rebounding percentage (ORB%), and free throw rate (FTR).

Factor / Wolves / Suns

eFG% / 50.7 / 49.4

TOV% / 13.7 / 13.9

ORB% / 27.5 / 26.5

FTR / .224 / .225

Four Factors are telling me something. Facts are facts, right? We shoot slightly better, we turn it over less, and grab a higher rate of offensive rebounds (suck on that Chandler). I talked my way into a Timberwolves loss above, and now I’m talking my way back into a win. I don’t know why I do this to myself. I know that I’m going to be cursing my way through a game that the Wolves should win but will probably lose and crush my soul in the process.

Regardless, Timberwolves 105, Suns 96

Let’s Go Wolves!