The Phoenix Suns are on a four-game winning streak coming into Monday, and the Minnesota Timberwolves could prove an uphill battle given the circumstances.
Despite having success last game without Deandre Ayton, the Suns will be tasked with both Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert. If Phoenix can hold Minnesota off, it only further cements itself at the top of the West.
The Suns headed into halftime leading the T-Wolves 54-47.
Phoenix went scoreless during the first two minutes of play in the first quarter. The dry spell was spent mostly by Cameron Johnson attempting to be more aggressive on the scoring end. Chris Paul was able to put the scoring drought to an end after a mid-range jumper as time hit the nine-minute mark.
Booker also looked to chip in to Minnesota’s early lead, but he quickly found himself in foul trouble. Neither team had necessarily jumped out ahead of the other. The score was tied at seven as time hit the six-minute mark. The Suns were shooting 25 percent from the field at this time.
Johnson continued to show confidence in his shot, as it paid dividends against a slower defender in Towns. Johnson could be the go-to mismatch for Phoenix. Given that along with Minnesota’s turnovers, the Suns quickly went on a 10-0 run late in the first.
Head coach Monty Williams went with a Mikal Bridges-Booker-bench lineup as time ticked down in the first quarter. That particular lineup has been used at the end of first quarters this season, showing promising effectiveness.
Phoenix was able to hold off Towns and Gobert from doing significant damage in the post, as the lethal frontcourt combined for only two points. They did however combine for seven rebounds. Phoenix’s main issue will be containing the two star big men with Ayton out.
The Suns led 24-20 at the end of the first quarter.
Phoenix deployed its all-bench lineup at the start of the quarter.
Payne seemed to take on his usual duties of leading the reserves, which included an impressive floater through traffic to keep the Suns ahead. He also knocked down a three at the top of the key, putting him at eight points for the game at the nine-minute mark.
Williams also inserted Dario Saric in place of Torrey Craig, giving Phoenix a double-big lineup. Saric and Jock Landale haven’t seen ample playing time together this season. Landale has been encouraged to continue searching for his shot from deep, but it hasn’t been successful thus far. Saric, however, was able to come in and immediately make an impact from downtown, hitting his first three.
Booker has been held off from a decent scoring half given Minnesota’s locked-on defense on the All-Star guard.
On the other side of the spectrum, Anthony Edwards has been able to get any look he’s desired mostly. Towns also got to business in the post late in the half, as he was up to seven rebounds with two minutes left. Three of those boards were offensive rebounds.
Minnesota cut Phoenix’s lead down to two, but Johnson continued his dominance that had reigned supreme for Phoenix. Johnson ended the half with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
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