The Minnesota Timberwolves were coming off a narrow loss to the Sacramento Kings last night as they let the Kings come back from a double digit Wolves lead to take the game in the second half.
Tonight, the Wolves made sure that there would be no comeback for the Suns as they simply spanked Phoenix in a game that was really only close, early in that first quarter.
The Timberwolves got going early thanks to Andrei Kirilenko. AK scored 11 of his 20 points in that opening quarter. The Wolves also looked to exploit the advantage in the paint. The Suns were without centers Marcin Gortat & Jermaine O'Neal. Because of that, 6'9" Luis Scola started at center.
Things really picked up in the 'middle quarters' (2nd & 3rd) as the Timberwolves' bench really got going. Chase Budinger had 8 points in the second quarter, while Stiemsma added 6 for a 36-point Wolves second quarter to take a large 67-39 lead at halftime. Dante Cunningham & Andrei Kirilenko took over in the third quarter. Dante scored 12 of his 18 in the third, while AK added another 7.
The Suns tried to go on a few runs during that third quarter, but couldn't materialize anything to really get them within striking distance. After three quarters, Phoenix still trailed 95-69 and the Wolves were well on their way to a second win over the Suns this season as well as a 24th of the season.
With tonight's win, Rick Adelman now has 995 career wins and he'll have another sixteen games to get them. Can the Wolves go 5-11 down the stretch? If they continue to play like they did tonight, 5-11 is the very least they might achieve. The inconsistency from game to game shouldn't give you a lot of hope that this can carry over. I'm not trying to be negative, but it's certainly been a long season.
Let's take a look at tonight's box score...
If you're a regular to 'HOWL!' you probably noticed that we've changed our recaps. Instead of having top performer & team statistic sections, instead I'm just going to give you the full box score and point out some key stats and some top performers from it...
I talked in the gameday preview about how, if the Wolves wanted to find success tonight and in these next couple weeks, they desperately needed Andrei Kirilenko & Luke Ridnour to find their offensive games. Tonight they did just that and the result was a blowout win. Kirilenko had his first double digit scoring night of the season since returning from that calf injury that kept him out for a lengthy period. Ridnour added 12 points, but was especially impressive dishing the basketball. With the Wolves starting Rubio & Luke together in the backcourt, Ridnour is usually asked to be more of a scorer, however tonight because of all the 'hot hands' out there, he got a chance to tap into his distributor abilities.
Ricky Rubio had another big all-around game. His stat-sheet stuffing is becoming a regularity and that's especially exciting for this young Timberwolves team.
The most impressive tonight was the production from the bench. The Wolves bench scored 58 points and were led by two players usually known more for their defensive capabilities: Dante Cunningham & Greg Stiemsma. Stiemsma finished the night with his first NBA career double-double. He also set new career-highs in points (14) and rebounds (10).
The Suns were without two of their starters: Marcin Gortat & Jared Dudley. Marcin is done for the season with a foot injury and Jared was dealing with a flu-like illness. Without them, this is a Phoenix team that (unlike the Suns teams of past) struggles on the offensive end. Tonight, that was clear given Phoenix's 37.9% FG, 18.2% 3PT & 47.6% FT. It was just a rough night for the Suns who had to rely heavily on Goran Dragic & Luis Scola for the majority of their offense.
The Wolves are now 24-43 on the year. They'll have tomorrow off, before returning to action on Sunday, back at the Target Center when they'll host the struggling Chicago Bulls. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!