The Phoenix Suns were two quarters away from improving to 6-1 for the season. At such a victory, the Suns would move ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers for first place in the Western Conference.
That achievement became real, as Phoenix outlasted the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night, with a final score of 116-107.
Both squads got off to slow starts during the first half, with Phoenix going scoreless through the first two minutes. The starters couldn’t find an offensive balance to help capitalize off Minnesota’s mishaps.
The first half belonged to Cameron Johnson, however, who led Phoenix with 17 points at halftime. Minnesota had a hard time containing the ball on offense, leading to over seven turnovers along with more than 13 fouls by halftime. Such a hindering area on both sides of the ball would be difficult for any team to overcome.
Minnesota was effective in cleaning up the boards largely in part to Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, however. Much was to be expected with Deandre Ayton still out from an ankle injury.
Still, Jock Landale and Bismack Biyombo have been captivating in their makeshift roles so far. Biyombo recorded a couple of blocks during the first half, and Landale continues to stretch the floor for Phoenix.
Minnesota got back to its troubling turnover habits as the third quarter got underway, and Phoenix made short work of them. Johnson picked up where he left off in the first half while opening up scoring lanes for other teammates.
Biyombo is no Ayton, but his boldness of guarding Towns has been admirable. Minnesota as a unit was still able to put up 17 second-chance points towards the end of the third quarter.
Booker was also able to help take some of the scoring load off Johnson during the third quarter, though it wasn’t his best shooting performance at that time. He finished the quarter 6-of-18 from the field.
Phoenix held onto an 11-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
Even as the fourth quarter got underway, turnovers became a concern for Phoenix. Yet the Suns held onto their lead due to the Timberwolves failing to connect on quality shot attempts. Williams went back to his pure-bench unit, which could allow Minnesota to sneak back in the game. That unit showed its early-season flaws after Edwards knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to cut Phoenix’s lead short to two. Edwards was up to 21 points and five rebounds for the game.
After getting five quick points after a timeout, Phoenix was delivered another blow with Devin Booker getting his fifth foul.
The game quickly turned into a nail-biter as time got beneath five minutes in the fourth quarter. Johnson hit his seventh three-pointer of the game while Bridges spearheaded the defense for Phoenix. Paul also showed his floor general prowess as Booker sat in foul trouble. Paul finished the game with 14 points and 12 assists.
Phoenix now improves to 6-1, with its next game being a rematch against the Portland Trail Blazers.
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