Timberwolves fans around the world were holding their breaths in the final minutes of the fourth quarter as we were engaged in yet another close game that easily could've gone either way in the final minute of action.
Luckily it was Minnesota who finish with the win and move one game over .500 on the season. With the win the Wolves finish the month of December 7-5, it's their first winning December since 2004 (8-6) and their 3rd best winning percentage ever in this month (11-2 in 2003 and 10-5 in 2001). This is also the TWolves' best start to the season, since they began 2005-06 14-13.
In our Gameday preview we highlighted the struggles of the Minnesota frontcourt in that last game (vs. the Rockets on Wednesday) and how if Minnesota wants to win games this season, they need those guys (AK, Love & Pek) to contribute big time on both ends. Tonight they showed why their one of the best frontcourts in the NBA as they combined for 71 points led by Nikola Pekovic who had a dominant game, finishing with 28 points--definitely getting the edge over Marcin Gortat in one of our key matchups of the night. Gortat finished with just 9 points on 3-of-6 shooting in 28 minutes. After watching tonights game, I stand by my assertion that Gortat isn't being utilized fully and should be leading this team in scoring.
This one was a back-and-forth affair all night. The TWolves pushed the lead to 7-8 points on a number of occasions, but the Suns' high octane offense was able to come roaring back and either tie it up or take a slim 1-2 point lead. That was the story all night long and heading into that final minute of action with the score so close and given the TWolves history in late game situations this season, TWolves fans everywhere were certainly 'on edge'.
Luckily, thanks to a couple of late defensive stops courtesy of Alexey Shved and Dante Cunningham as well as made free throws by the aforementioned duo, the TWolves sent the Suns to their 20th loss of the season, as well as their 13th road loss on the year. The Wolves are now 14-13 on the year and 9-4 on their home turf.
Let's take a look at tonight's top performers highlighted by Phoenix's Luis Scola and Minnesota's Nikola Pekovic...
HOT: Minnesota's Nikola Pekovic absolutely shredded the Phoenix Suns' interior defense, getting easy buckets and putbacks at will. I was expecting a bit more of a battle between him and Gortat, but Pekovic clearly showed why he's considered one of the NBA's strongest players. Phoenix's Luis Scola put up one heck of a fight for his team in this one. It seemed like every shot he put up found bottom as he used an array of post moves to get the best of Kevin Love in the post as well as hit some difficult mid-range jumpers. Very impressed with Scola in this one. If you'll remember: the Wolves were VERY interested in acquiring Scola this summer after he was amnestied. The Wolves didn't have any money to make a bid on him however as it was all tied up in the Nicolas Batum offer sheet.
NOT: Minnesota's former players. Michael Beasley, Wes Johnson & Sebastian Telfair made their return to the Target Center tonight, but were certainly less than impressive. Telfair finished with 0pts on 0-6 shooting along with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover and 1 foul in 12 minutes off the bench. Michael Beasley played 10 minutes off the bench and finished with just 2 points on 1-of-8 shooting along with 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 foul. Wes Johnson received a DNP-CD. He's played in just 12 game this season (and 5.9mpg in them) as Suns head coach Alvin Gentry says they're high on Wes, he's just in a bad situation--on a team with a lot of quality wing players.
MISC. STATS: Kirilenko's 10 made field goals ties a season-high.....Dante Cunningham's 2 made free throws also ties a season-high.....
KEY STATS: The Minnesota Timberwolves shot the lights out from the field, hitting over 50% of their shots from the field. They held a slight edge on the boards with a +5 as well as a +14 in bench scoring. The Suns forced the Wolves into 10 turnovers and capitalized with 13 points. They had 11 of those points in the first half. Both teams struggled from the free throw line, hitting just over 60% from the line. Usually the Wolves lose a game when they shoot that poorly--and leave that many points at the line, luckily the Suns shared in their struggles at the line.
MISC. STATS: The Wolves set new season-lows in steals (2), fast break points (3) and team turnovers (10). The Suns set new season-highs for a TWolves opponent with 45 field goals made, 97 field goals attempted and 107 points. Phoenix's two made threes tied a season-low for a Wolves opponent and their 5 turnovers, a season-low.
That's all for now, the TWolves won't be back in action until Wednesday night (1/2) vs. the Jazz in Utah. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!