Timberwolves blown out by Phoenix to end seven-game win streak

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The Timberwolves have been on the good end of rest advantages this season, facing a number of opponents who were on the second night of back to backs.

Such was the case in wins over Miami and Golden State (Atlanta was on the second half of one, as well, but that didn’t go so well for the Wolves).

But Minnesota found itself on the flip side of the equation Wednesday, playing in Phoenix one night after playing in San Francisco. And it did not go well.

The Timberwolves looked lifeless en route to being trounced 133-115 by the Suns, a loss that snapped Minnesota’s seven-game winning streak.

“We didn’t answer the bell very well. Just a little flat,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch told reporters. “And when we did find moments here and there, we couldn’t sustain it.”

Minnesota sports the NBA’s top defense, which suffocates opponents on a nightly basis. But it lacked any vigor Wednesday. Phoenix (5-6) got open looks seemingly every possession. Devin Booker — playing in his first game in two weeks after recovering from an ankle injury — tallied 31 points and five assists, getting downhill at will. Booker scored the 31 points in just 26 minutes.

Kevin Durant added 31 points on 11-for-15 shooting. Phoenix shot 60% from the field, including going 17 for 31 from deep. The Suns scored 76 points in the first half.

“Certainly one of those nights. All credit to them. They played outstanding,” Finch said. “We could never get them in containment and they did make a lot of shots, but they had a lot of comfort in that. I don’t think we were ever really able to establish ourselves defensively, which is what we’ve been doing.”

Karl-Anthony Towns — who turned 28 years old Wednesday — continued his recent strong play by providing another offensive jolt. Towns scored 13 of his 25 points in the first quarter.

“He had a matchup,” Finch said. “They had a hard time with his size and ability to get to the rim.”

But Finch lamented Minnesota’s lack of ball movement, citing the team’s paltry 18 assists. No one outside of Towns got going. Towns got little help. Anthony Edwards scored 13 points on just 4-for-16 shooting. The Wolves went 5 for 27 from deep.

Wednesday rivaled Minnesota’s loss in Atlanta for the distinction of the team’s worst performance of the year. Nothing Minnesota (8-3) did in Phoenix resembled what it had put forth for much of the campaign.

So it’s easy to write the game off to tired legs. But back to backs are a constant in the NBA. And teams chasing top seeds, as Minnesota appears ready to do this season, must find ways to compete on consecutive nights.

Unlike many other teams, the Timberwolves almost certainly won’t rest players on the second half of back to backs — that’s not part of Finch’s philosophy — but the key cogs in the rotation must demonstrate an ability to bring it, particularly defensively, one night after the next.

Because when they don’t, games like Wednesday can easily pop up.

Minnesota wraps up its five-game road trip Saturday in New Orleans.


Bradley Beal was originally slated to play Wednesday, which would’ve marked the first time Beal, Durant and Booker shared the floor for Phoenix, but the guard was a late scratch due to a back injury. … Jaden McDaniels and Rudy Gobert were both fined $25,000 for their roles in the scuffle Tuesday between the Warriors and Wolves, the NBA announced. Klay Thompson was also fined $25,000, while Draymond Green, who placed Gobert in a lengthy choke hold, was suspended for five games. “It’s not really my department,” Finch said when asked to comment on the disciplinary decisions. “Seems appropriate to me.”

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