Following last night’s ... eventful 104-101 win over the Golden State Warriors to beat them in back-to-back games the Minnesota Timberwolves traveled to the desert to take on the Phoenix Suns, who were supposed to be at full strength for the first time this season with all of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal said to be active.
This did not turn out to be the case, as Beal ended up being a late scratch after going through his pregame warmup. Despite that, it still was a tough slate considering the energy expended last night and coming into town against a fresh Phoenix team, playing after three days of rest.
Bradley Beal is OUT tonight due to a back injury— NBACentral (@TheDunkCentral) November 16, 2023
No Big 3 debut for PHX pic.twitter.com/L2Tbs7vOIM
Even with Beal being out, Booker (calf) was back in action for the first time since November 2 and looked like he didn’t miss a beat, making it a tough night for the Wolves.
The best way to describe the Timberwolves’ performance was weary, through and through. You could tell that they were tired from the travel and from the Warriors games from the past three days. These games are bound to happen during an NBA season and while it’s tough to see Minnesota’s seven-game win streak come to an end, let’s not forget the excitement that we still have.
Pretty telling...— Charlie Walton (@CharlieWaltonMN) November 16, 2023
• Conley: -16
• Edwards: -27
• McDaniels: -9
• Towns: -12
• Gobert: -25
• Milton: -6
• Alexander-Walker: -11
• Reid: -10
• Anderson: -20
Finch empties his bench w/ 4:32 left in what has turned out to be a bloodbath for a tired Wolves squad.
The Wolves started the first quarter strong despite the fatigue that set in staying with the Suns for the beginning part of the first period. That is when former Timberwolf Josh Okogie struck, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter. He was shooting 17% on the year from downtown before this game, but the former team buff was in full effect. Despite this, the Timberwolves fought their way back to just be down by six heading into the second frame thanks to some solid play from Towns and the second unit. KAT was phenomenal in the first and continued on his stellar offensive run, posting 14 points in the first quarter alone, which was good for almost half of the Timberwolves’ overall scoring output.
Not the defense we've become accustomed to— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) November 16, 2023
In the first ten games of the season, the Wolves had a defensive rating of 101.9 and held opponents to a eFG% of 47.9%
In the first quarter against Phoenix tonight, the Wolves had a defense rating of 143.5 and Phoenix's eFG% was 73.7%
The second quarter is where things really started to get out of control. The Suns immediately put the pedal to the floor in this one. Drew Eubanks drilled a 3-pointer (yes you read that correctly) and from that point on Phoenix was in firm control.
They scored 41 points in the quarter and took a demanding 22-point lead heading into halftime. The Wolves point of attack defense was non-existent and Booker and KD were getting whatever they wanted every trip down the floor. As a result, Phoenix connected on 17 of their 27 shots (63%) and six of their nine 3-point fires in the quarter.
Minnesota was also hard pressed to find offense all half outside of Towns — who didn’t even score in the second quarter — and Mike Conley, who provided 10 efficient points on 3/3 shooting from the floor and 3/3 from the free throw line.
Been a rough night for Edwards. That plus Nurkic and JO hitting 3s and it’s just not happening— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) November 16, 2023
The second half was riddled with mini spurts of energy for the Timberwolves that were continuously snuffed out by the Suns high-caliber offense. The one bright spot again was KAT, as on his 28th birthday he scored his 12,000th career point in the NBA on a thunderous dunk over Jusuf Nurkić. It is important to celebrate the small victories especially in a game like this.
While there were some points where you thought maybe the Wolves would come back into it, including a nine-point Naz Reid flurry in the bridge from the third to fourth quarters, their collectively tired legs just could not muster enough of a rally.
Minnesota Head Coach Chris Finch is usually a champion of the “you got yourself into it, get yourself out of it” philosophy with leaving starts in the game, but he did wave the white flag with about 4:30 left to go in this game.
Looking at the circumstances while it is unacceptable to play this poorly ever, this would be the most understandable time to do so coming off of last nights victory against the Warriors where the Wolves had to claw their way back into the game multiple times. At least tonight we got to see some Josh Minott and Luka Garza minutes.
I know that we as fans have gotten accustomed to winning over the last couple of weeks, but it is a long season and you can’t win every game. Devin Booker and Kevin Durant were phenomenal — each scoring 31 points on a combined 23/37 shooting (62%) — and while the Wolves could and should have been able to play their patented top tier defense, they just did not have it tonight.
Tired legs and lackluster defense painted them into a corner. That combined with the Suns shooting 17/31 (54.8%) from beyond the arc created a mix that even Minnesota could not come back from.
Wolves 7-game winning streak will come to an end. It was a schedule loss, for sure, but still disappointing to see the defense bottom out like this.— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) November 16, 2023
Only good news was KAT continues to show his feel for offense is all the way back.
KAT as the Bright Spot
The biggest positive takeaway from this game is that Towns continued his tear on the offensive end. He scored 25 points on 10/17 from the floor and added seven rebounds to that total. He was reliable and consistent and the biggest thing that was odd which I noticed was that he did not make a three the entire game. While many Wolves struggled in that regard it is good to see KAT being able to get back to that pump-and-go game against smaller defenders. When Edwards brings it on the offensive end, this team will continue to be extremely tough to beat.
The Timberwolves luckily have a couple of days off before continuing their road trip on a Saturday evening matchup in The Big Easy against the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Timberwolves soundly beat the Pelicans last Wednesday 122-101 but will need to bring it even more on the road and with New Orleans getting back Zion Williamson, who missed the previous contest against Minnesota due to the birth of his first child, and Herb Jones, who was out due to a leg injury.
Unfortunately for New Orleans, they are likely to still be without four rotation players — C.J. McCollum, Jose Alvarado, Trey Murphy III, and Larry Nance Jr —, have lost five of their last six games and will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back on Saturday night. Seems like a great time to bounce back from tonight’s loss that left a lot to be desired.
Streaming for the 6:00 PM CT tip will be available on Bally Sports North and the Wolves App Radio.