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Wolves at Suns: The Holiday Road Stretch Continues

Minnesota looks to even the season series with the Suns in Phoenix.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Timberwolves (19-13) at Phoenix Suns (12-22)
8:00 pm CT

It’s funny to think that the season hasn’t even reached the halfway mark yet and the Wolves have already played the Phoenix Suns three times. What’s less funny to think about is the fact that a clearly superior Wolves team has lost to the Suns in two of those three games.

The most recent of those games came at Target Center one week ago when the Suns snuck up on the Wolves during “Statement Saturday” — the unveiling of Minnesota’s blinding green uniforms — and stole a win right out from under their nose with star player Devin Booker sitting on the bench. It was quite a statement to make, to say the least.

With the final matchup of the season between these two teams coming tonight, Minnesota has a chance to even the series and add some momentum to their three-game holiday road trip, which ends at the Staples Center against the Lakers on Christmas Day.

The Wolves have struggled with playing down to their opponent’s level in seasons past, and it’s not something they’ve been able to shake yet this year. It’s one of the most frustrating things to watch as a fan, and it’s been a theme in most of their matchups with the Suns this year, but hopefully that kind of play will sort itself out as the season continues and this team gets more experience under its belt.

Minnesota’s been clicking since their last game against the Suns, besting two division opponents in a pair of clutch wins that put a little breathing room between their fourth-place position in the Western Conference and the slew of other teams in contention.

Noted plus/minus phenomenon Jamal Crawford (joking, take it easy) was +27 in the latter of those two matchups, scoring 16 fourth-quarter points and hitting a couple big shots in the process. He and Jimmy Butler have been imperative for this team as of late, and it’s proof that experience goes a long way in this league. Karl-Anthony Towns also had a good game on Wednesday against the Denver Nuggets, so hopefully that energy carries over into tonight’s matchup.

Even though this is the second road game in a row, this game is a should-win for Minnesota against a Phoenix team that is again without Devin Booker. The Suns’ bench is what did the most damage in the game one week ago, scoring more than half the team’s total points. Even so, with the Wolves’ bench as inconsistent as it’s been recently, tonight might be a good game for Thibs to experiment with staggering the lineups. As long as they’re able to contain TJ Warren and don’t let young guys like Josh Jackson or Dragan Bender sneak up on them, they should come out on top here.

Projected Starting Lineups

Jeff Teague
Jimmy Butler
Andrew Wiggins
Taj Gibson
Karl-Anthony Towns

Tyler Ulis
Josh Jackson
TJ Warren
Marquese Chriss
Tyson Chandler

Prediction: Wolves 112, Suns 101. The Wolves simply outscore Phoenix on the back of Jimmy Butler’s hot streak.