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Suns 134, Wolves 124: Defensive Meltdown in the Desert

The Timberwolves kept pace with the league’s best team on the latter half of a road back to back, but defensive miscues proved to be too much to overcome.

The Lede

It was worse than Vegas said it would be with the eight-point spread heading into the Minnesota Timberwolves’ road bout with the NBA’s best team.

The problem is, effort on the defensive end was the very reason things turned out that way. Yes, the Suns had more talent on the floor tonight, and weren’t dealing with as many key injuries (still sans DeAndre Ayton, however). But what many thought to be a game that could turn ugly on the latter part of a road back-to-back against the west’s top-two teams shorthanded, stayed close despite the aforementioned lack of defensive precision.

“I think it was indecison,” Chris Finch said after the game. “We have to get our defense back to where it was, it’s getting a little loose right now.”

The valley (no pun intended) of the Wolves defense came in the fourth quarter. They brought the game back within striking distance multiple times, only to miss rotations and leave shooters wide open.

Cameron Johnson played all 12 minutes of the fourth, scored 13 points, and didn’t miss from 3 (3/3), The suns shot 45% as a team from deep, to Minnesota’s 30%.

“We were tired,” Karl-Anthony Towns said. “I could just see it on everyone that we were tired.”

Speaking of hot fourth quarter performances...

Malik Beasley ended up putting a nice game together this evening after a disastrous performance on Thursday. Initially, about midway through the third quarter, it looked as though tonight’s game was headed on a similar trajectory. Beasley went 0-5 from the field in the third, and Phoenix started to widen its lead in the winding minutes of the quarter.

“Malik’s a hell of a shooter,” Towns said. “People got through funks, one thing shooters do, they keep shooting.”

And keep shooting Beasley did. He scored 18 of his 26 points in the fourth, and was one of the major reasons the Wolves hung in down to the last couple minutes of the game.

Everyone, including myself, has been clambering for the Beasley of last season. In the 37 games Beasley played in 2020-21, he scored at least 20 points in 20 of those games. Tonight, Beasley marked his 7th of the season in the now 48 games he’s played in.

Obviously, Beasley had more of a workload last season with the laundry list of injuries, but he was also way better overall. Here’s to hoping tonight could be the start of a desperately-needed bench spark in this gauntlet of the schedule.

Point Guard Ant

With both D’Angelo Russell and Patrick Beverley out tonight, Edwards assumed a lot of offensive initiating responsibilities. Something done out of necessity, not by choice.

“I don’t like bringing the ball up,” Edwards said. “I don’t like initiating the offense.”

Not to be confused with sharing the ball or playing team basketball, Ant alluded to being a point guard in the offense is not his preference unless more of a set play is called, which is an interesting peak behind the curtain.

Ahem, he still finished with 10 assists, a career high (previously 7).

Looking Ahead

The Wolves will be back home to play multiple games at Target Center for the first time since late December. They start the homestand on Sunday against a struggling Utah team, who has dropped four of their last five.

Russell is expected to return to the lineup, with Beverley coming close to his return as well.

Game Highlights