Timberwolves come up short, again, lose defensive battle 99-96 to Suns

With the season about to commence, Wolves fans assumed the points would come easy, the defense hard.

Monday at Target Center, against the red-hot Phoenix Suns, it was the reverse. Missing too many shots and turning the ball over too often much of the night, the Wolves used defense to stay in the game, to lead late in the fourth. One game after a questionable effort in a one-sided loss in Los Angeles to the Clippers, the Wolves, as Karl-Anthony Towns said, never let go of the rope.

But, still, another loss, 96-93 to the Suns, the Wolves’ second straight and eighth in nine games. The Suns won their ninth straight.

Up a point when D’Angelo Russell hit two free throws with 88 seconds left, the Wolves were outscored 8-4 the rest of the way.

“I’m proud of us,” said Towns, who scored 35 points with 13 rebounds. “I thought we played a really tough game. We did a lot of great things.”

But not enough things.

BOXSCORE: Phoenix 99, Timberwolves 96

Tightly contested all night, the game had 16 lead changes and 16 ties. Neither team ever led by more than seven points.

But in the end, the Wolves (4-9) couldn’t contain Chris Paul, who scored 19 of his 21 points in the final 12 minutes. He and Devin Booker (nine of his 29 in the fourth) combined to score 28 of the Suns’ 33 points in the fourth quarter.

“I thought defensively we were really good for the most part,” Wolves coach Chris Finch said after the Wolves held the Suns (10-3) to 37.6% shooting, 7-for-31 on three-pointers. “We talked about getting better at the point of attack and I thought we did an excellent job of coming out and contesting shots.”

Unfortunately, the Wolves couldn’t get enough shots to fall. Anthony Edwards was 2-for-11, though he did grab 12 rebounds, get six assists and block three shots. Russell was 7-for-21 for 22 points; he missed an open three-pointer with 5.6 seconds left and the Wolves down two.

After Russell hit two free throws with 1:28 left, Suns center Deandre Ayton (22 points, 12 rebounds) scored. Russell missed a 16-footer, then Booker hit a fadeaway with 46.8 seconds left.

At the other end Patrick Beverley scored on a put-back and was fouled. He went to the line with a chance to tie the game, but missed. Jaden McDaniels’ offensive rebound gave Russell another chance, but his three-pointer missed. Then Paul hit two free throws with 19.1 seconds left. Russell scored on a drive on the ensuing possession, but the Wolves never scored again.

“I feel like the Phoenix Suns are a great team, but we had it,” said Malik Beasley, who scored 12 points off the bench. “We had the opportunity. We’re still growing down the stretch, but we’re proud of ourselves for battling.”

With the Wolves trailing by two, Russell missed a three-pointer with 5.6 seconds left. Edwards got the rebound but turned the ball over, his sixth and the team’s 18th.

It may seem odd a team, 13 games into the season, is still talking about how hard it played after a loss. But it was a step. Now the key is to start stacking those kinds of efforts together.

“If we play a lot of games the way we played tonight, regardless of the shooting, we’re winning a lot of these games,” Towns said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *