After the most fun night of their season last night, the Minnesota Timberwolves came sputtering back down to Earth tonight with a disappointing second half collapse in Phoenix.
Both teams got out to a hot start in the first quarter, combining for 63 points in an exciting up-and-down start on the second half of a back-to-back. Devin Booker was particularly sharp, scoring 8 of his 16 points in the opening frame behind some strong mid-range shooting.
Minnesota fell behind early in the second quarter before igniting for an 8-0 run spanning 50 seconds to pull within one, prompting a Monty Williams tirade at the officials and a very unusual ejection for the normally mild-mannered Phoenix Suns head coach. His team responded in a major way on the back of Langston Galloway on Booker, who took turns draining 3s to push the lead out to 10 at the halftime break.
The Wolves punched back early in the third, starting the half on a classic 15-2 run engineered by some Ricky Rubio magic and unbelievable defense from Josh Okogie on Booker, who did not score in the second half thanks to Okogie’s efforts.
if anyone finds this dime Ricky dropped we'll give you the other 90 cents.— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) March 20, 2021
Okogie held Booker to just one point on 0-of-2 shooting in the fourth quarter last night and again completely shut him down tonight. The Wolves’ defensive stopper has played a huge role in the team’s turnaround since the All-Star break and seems to be getting back to form on the defensive end.
The Josh Okogie show is on pic.twitter.com/wmwQU8wvym— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) March 20, 2021
Outside of Okogie, the Minnesota role players provided the wheels came off in Chris Paul’s leave-no-doubt fashion. The Hall of Fame point god took it to Minnesota in the third, scoring 10 of his Suns-high 20 points in the quarter. His dominant run included some back-and-forth jawing with officials and Karl-Anthony Towns that only fueled the Suns’ fire heading into the fourth quarter, where the game turned into a blowout that crawled to the finish line, which we are all too familiar with.
Towns from the jump continued his offensive excellence, feasting at the opportunity to go at Deandre Ayton in the post and on the perimeter. Towns was exceptional with his decision-making on the perimeter in terms of when to attack off the bounce or let it fly from deep. After a tough shooting stretch of shooting games heading into the Phoenix road trip, Towns shot 8-of-11 from deep in two games the desert, which bodes very well for his offensive production moving forward. The Big KAT finished with 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting, 3-of-4 from 3, 9 rebounds, and 1 assist in 35 minutes of action.
Anthony Edwards just couldn’t find a rhythm after a monstrous 42-point outburst last night, which was largely a byproduct of the Minnesota role players being unable to get anything going on the offensive end. Ant poured in 11 points on 4-of-18 shooting, 3-of-8 from 3, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists, but did have 7 turnovers in his 36 minutes.
Towns, Edwards, and Rubio combined for 56 of the Wolves’ 101 points on 20-of-40 from the floor. Outside of that trio, the rest of the team shot 17-of-39 (43.6 percent) and scored just 45 points.
The Wolves’ frontcourt trio of Jake Layman, Juancho Hernangomez, and Jarred Vanderbilt was terrible tonight. They combined for 5 points on 2-of-7 shooting, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, and 2 stocks in 36 collective minutes. Hernangomez, who played very well last night, had a particularly rough night on both ends. The Spainsh stretch big had as many turnovers (2) as shot attempts, was a turnstile on defense, and was a -20 in just 18 minutes played. Jaylen Nowell added 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting but it was largely too little, too late and did not have a tangible impact on the final tally.
Simply put, Minnesota just didn’t make enough shots to hang with an excellent all-around Suns squad. The Wolves will fly back to Minneapolis for a four-game home stand (with games against OKC, Dallas, and Houston twice). D’Angelo Russell (knee surgery) and Malik Beasley (league suspension) are expected to return next week before gearing up for a brutal gauntlet of games against playoff-caliber that starts March 29th at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.