Suns 110, Timberwolves 99: The winning streak stops at one

Goran-Dragic

I have no idea if this is true or not (I’ll have to ask him about it the next time Phoenix comes to town), but my hypothesis is that a relative of Goran (and Zoran, I guess) Dragic was once attacked and killed by a timberwolf, which is the reason why he seems to bring a little extra every time he laces ‘em up against our poor Timberwolves basketball players. Over his past five games against Minnesota, the 28 year old Slovenia native is averaging 21 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists on 56% shooting. The Suns are 4-1 in those 5 games, and The Dragon is a big reason why.

Last night was more of the same – a 21-5-8 line on 10/17 shooting. When a team is 6-32, there are plenty of reasons why, but I can’t help but shake the notion that abysmal point guard defense is a big reason for the Wolves’ struggles. Forgive me if you’re tired of reading about it in these recaps, but I’d like to believe Ricky Rubio would make a big difference, even though he was present for three of the five big Dragic games mentioned above. Everyone handling the ball for the Suns last night got to pretty much wherever they wanted on the floor. Eric Bledsoe got to the line 7 times, Isaiah Thomas had 4 assists off the bench, and Dragic was his usual disruptive self, driving and creating for teammates and finishing inside with relative ease.

Mo Williams has been good for Minnesota on the offensive end – his 52 point game skews the numbers, but over his past six games, he’s averaging 25 points and 7 assists on 49/47/83 shooting splits – but he gives almost all of it back at the other end. When Zach LaVine is on the floor, the offense slows to a halt and the defense is just as bad, perhaps even a bit worse. And while it’s naive to believe Rubio’s return, which is probably still a couple of weeks away, will “fix” the defense, it’ll certainly help.

A few other odds and ends from this one:

– The Wolves don’t make it easy on themselves. Early in the second half, they had a 2-on-1 fastbreak, Mo flashed to the corner (for some reason) and missed a three (which should have been a layup) but was bailed out by a Thad Young offensive rebound and putback. On the next series, the Wolves had it in semi-transition, overpassed, kicked it around, and it wound up with Thad hitting a difficult shot in the paint. They got four points on the two possessions, but turned the opportunities from low-to-high degrees of difficulty, which felt appropriate for some reason.

– Thad hit the two shots described above, but had just 13 points on 17 shots. He’s had more field goal attempts than points in each of his past 3 games and 7 of his past 12 overall. Yuck.

– Speaking of Thad Young, Phoenix had 15 offensive rebounds in this one, leading to several extra opportunities for them. Flip tried to counter the assault on the offensive boards by putting Miroslav Raduljica into the game in the third quarter, but he lasted just 4:33 before being yanked after committing a turnover on an elbow touch that was painfully awkward to watch.

– OBLIGATORY ANDREW WIGGINS PRAISE UPDATE: 17 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists on 8-of-15 shooting in 36 minutes. Since December 23rd, he’s averaging 21/5/3 on 49/41/77 shooting splits in 37 minutes per game. That’s pretty good. He’s pretty good. I’m really happy he’s on the Timberwolves. Hashtag analysis.

– Gerald Friggin’ Green. Gerald. Friggin. Green. Gerald Green. Like Goran Dragic, Gerald Friggin’ Green (GFG) has a personal vendetta against the Wolves, but his motive is less of a mystery – he was once traded by Minnesota to Houston for Kirk Snyder (he of Jerry Stackhouse fame) and a second round pick, and hasn’t forgotten about it. Since arriving in Phoenix, GFG is averaging 17.4 points per game against the Wolves on 48.4% field goals, 50% (15-of-30) three pointers and is also a perfect 15-of-15 from the free throw line. Remember that one game last season when he hit that ridiculous baseline fadeaway to steal a Suns’ victory at the Target Center? GFG.

Tonight, he did the same damn thing he did in the last meeting between these two teams – he went HAM at the end of the 3rd / beginning of the 4th quarter, going 5-of-6 with 12 points in the first 6:00 of the final period, refusing to allow the Wolves back into the game. Sure, Minnesota turnovers and Phoenix offensive boards during this stretch played their part, but GFG had a lot to do with keeping the Suns’ feet on the Wolves’ throats.

– Robbie Hummel was good. He should maybe play more? I’m not sure. He’s not really a developmental guy, and appears destined to be a 13th-15th man if he finds a way to stick in the league, but he’s so damned smart, a good team defender and a willing passer, I wish he’d get more run. It’s the classic dilemma with him – if he’s playing a lot, that probably means your team isn’t very good, but he has a lot of winning habits.

– The Wolves head to Denver for the second night of a back-to-back tonight. Mo might need to drop 60 in order for them to have a chance.

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