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Suns-Wolves Game 1 and series ultimate preview: Can Suns continue regular season-success vs. Minnesota?

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The time is finally here NBA fans, the first day of the NBA playoffs with the No. 6 Phoenix Suns taking on the No. 3 Minnesota Timberwolves as the second game of the day at 12:30 p.m. MST.

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Only Damion Lee (right meniscus surgery) is listed as out for either team, as the Suns’ guard missed the entire regular season and remains out, but could come back sometime during the postseason. 

Owner Mat Ishbia went out and acquired two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant at the trade deadline last season and traded for three-time All-Star Bradley Beal this summer, going way over the second tax apron to make these moves happen. Ishbia did not make these moves for regular-season success.

Everyone in the Suns’ probable eight-man rotation outside of Drew Eubanks (0) has played in at least three playoffs before this season (Beal: 5, Devin Booker: 3, Grayson Allen: 4, Durant: 12, Nurkić: 4, O’Neale: 6, and Eric Gordon: 6). If you add these numbers up, the Suns have 40 playoff appearances across these seven players, and that’s excluding everyone else on the bench, like Thaddeus Young (9 playoffs), Isaiah Thomas (3 playoffs) and NBA-champion Damion Lee (2 playoffs).

Coach Frank Vogel has now gone to the playoffs in eight of his 12 years as a head coach, including an NBA championship and playing in three conference finals. He brought over a lot of assistants from his 2020 NBA championship with the Lakers as well.

General manager James Jones went to the playoffs 12 times in his playing career, appearing in six NBA Finals and winning three championships.

The Suns might not have done as well as they hoped in the first year with their core together, as they ended the regular season with a 49-33 record, good for the No. 6 seed in the NBA. But now, it’s playoff time.

That being said, one team they did extremely well against in the regular season was Minnesota.

The Suns swept the regular season series 3-0 over the Timberwolves this year and never led by less than double digits in the second half of any of these three games. The Suns last got a commanding 125-106 win in the season finale on Sunday at Target Center, which ironically had a start time of 12:30 as well.

Minnesota finished the season ranked No. 1 in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) at 108.4, No. 1 in fewest points allowed per game (106.5) and No. 1 in opponent field-goal percentage (45%).

In three games against the Suns, those numbers dropped to a 123.7 defensive rating (the worst mark for any team this season across 82 games was 119.6), 118.3 points allowed per game and an allowed field-goal percentage of 53.0%.

Anthony Edwards, who averaged 25.9 points per game this season on 46.1% shooting, only averaged 14.3 points on 31% shooting in the three games against the Suns this year. 

With Game 1 being in Minnesota, the Timberwolves are 30-11 at home this season, while the Suns boast a road record of 24-17.

Can the Suns keep up this regular-season success over the Wolves in the playoffs?

We have done several preview articles on the series and four preview Podcasts leading up to this series. Special guests on the Podcasts include Forbes Sports NBA writer Shane Young (@YoungNBA on X/Twitter), ClutchPoints Suns Reporter Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth on X/Twitter) and Canis Hoopus contributor/No Ceilings NBA co-founder Tyler Metcalf (@tmetcalf11 on X/Twitter).

I will provide some of the things they said, along with some of my analysis, in this preview, but be sure to go check out the episodes below for a lot more in-depth discussion for both teams. See quotes from Suns’ players in the stories below:

Suns ready for ‘dogfight’ with Timberwolves despite regular-season success

Everything the Suns said about the Timberwolves this week

How ready are the Suns for the playoffs? Here’s everything they said this week

Full Series Schedule

  • Game 1: Suns at Wolves, Saturday,12:30 p.m. on AZ Family/3TV, ESPN
  • Game 2: Suns at Wolves, Tuesday, 4:30 p.m. on AZ Family/3TV, TNT
  • Game 3: Wolves at Suns, April 26, 7:30 p.m. on AZ Family/3TV, ESPN
  • Game 4: Wolves at Suns, Sunday, April 28, 6:30 p.m., on AZ Family/3TV, TNT
  • Game 5*: Suns at Wolves, Tuesday, April 30, TBD, on TBD
  • Game 6*: Wolves at Suns, Thursday, May 2, TBD, on TBD
  • Game 7* Suns at Wolves, Saturday, May 4, TBD, on TNT

*if necessary

Previous Results from the Regular-Season Series

Keys to Success in the Series

Mine for the Suns:

  1. Forcing turnovers and defensive communication 
    • The Suns forced 19 turnovers in the first half of the season finale and 13 in the first half of the April 5 game. They completely took Anthony Edwards out of the game because of stagnating the T-Wolves’ offense to the most extreme level by using a heavy gap presence against him to not allow him to drive to the rim.
  2. How much TEAM basketball the Suns can play
    • Timberwolves have the No. 1 defense for a reason and should be able to have success taking away at least one of the Suns’ Big 3, will they be able to trust their teammates in these situations?
  3. Suns have to continue to play their way and show their identity
    • Make T-Wolves pay for drop coverage and lack of connectivity on offense they have shown against Phoenix this season.
  4. Making necessary adjustments
    • Two very good coaches come playoff time, who can outsmart the other?
  5. No stupid mistakes
    • Too many times this season have we seen the Suns shoot themselves in the foot, so to say, because of silly, repeated turnovers. They cannot afford to do that at all against the No. 1 defense in the NBA.

Booth for the Suns:

  1. Coaching
    • “When you’re playing a team several times in a row, I always say everybody and their mama knows what you’re going to do on offense and defense, it’s going to come down to just who’s got the better players to make plays. And I think the Suns have that. Now coaching falls into that because you got to have your guys set up to succeed.”
  2. Limiting turnovers
    • “When you look at the key games the Suns have had this year … throughout the Suns have had turnover problems. Now, like I said, I think in these last 10 games, they found a way to take care of the ball, they’ve got some roles set out, they’ve got some things identified in terms of what they want to do. And you have to continue to do that.”
  3. Offensive assertion and aggression
    • “You got to make sure that you’re playing your style of game, this Minnesota team, it cannot score with you. You got to find ways to make sure that you’re constantly getting up more shots than your opponent, getting to the free-throw line yourself and finding ways to get Rudy Gobert off the floor. That’s where teams against him have had success in the past.”
  4. Center play
    • “Is Nurkić going to be in foul trouble? Is Eubanks going to have to play minutes at the 5? Is KD gonna have to play at the five? How’s the rotation going to look off of that? So that’s some of the things I’m looking at.”
  5. Slowing down Anthony Edwards
    • “If you take Ant out the game, this team can’t score. I mean, plain and simple. I don’t trust Towns to lead you when you got Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal on the other end.”

Metcalf for the Wolves

  1. Turnovers
    • “Just take care of the ball, make the right play, make the easy play, don’t overcomplicate things and good shots, good opportunities will come.”
  2. Rebound.
    • “Honestly, I know a team with this size and athleticism should be an elite rebounding team, but they’ve been super inconsistent with it. And they’ve allowed Phoenix, especially in that last game, to get a ton of offensive rebounds. And with the shooters and the scores that they have, you can’t give them extra possessions. So as long as the Timberwolves are taking care of the ball on offense, and then ending possessions with really sound team, defensive rebounding on defense. Those would be kind of the two areas that I think will make the biggest difference.”

What to Make of the Suns Regular-Season Success against T-Wolves

My take:

The Suns are saying it means nothing going into this series, and I completely agree. There is stuff, however, you can take from the regular season. The Wolves are one of the few teams the Suns have found an identity against this season. They have found their groove on both sides of the ball: excellent job closing gaps defensively, as well as communication especially when defending Anthony Edwards, and success against whatever defense the Timberwolves have thrown at them.

If the Suns can find this same groove, they can win this series, but the Wolves are the No. 1 defense for a reason. They have a very good coach in Chris Finch and can make the necessary adjustments and have a young superstar in Edwards that can go off any game.

I find it highly unlikely that we will see nothing carry over from the regular season, but maybe not to the extreme of blowouts every single time. The Timberwolves will adjust, but I don’t see them adjusting enough to take four games in a seven-game series.


“I think a lot of it goes back to the Suns have three shot-makers who can really bust this Minnesota scheme and find ways to get in the paint and also shoot and find ways to hit shots that this Timberwolves team is just not used to guarding. And I think that’s why they jumped out to a big lead in the home game earlier this month, they jumped out to a big lead on Sunday. And it’s very possible we see it again.

Now, in the playoffs, right, whistles tend to be a lot less friendly. So there’s going to be some physicality involved. This (Minnesota) team has length, they’re obviously a bigger size team, and as much as possible, you want to establish that over the Suns.

My friend J-Will on (X) Spaces, we were talking about some scheming for this game. And he was mentioning that we didn’t see a lot of post-ups. And they’re starting to get KAT back, so they’re starting to incorporate him back in the lineup, but direct post-ups to him, to Gobert, to Reed even, to really try to put some pressure on Nurkić and some of the Suns 4s and 5s to to get them in foul trouble and slow down the pace of this game. I would expect we see that more often than not moving forward, because that’s how Minnesota has to win, right? That’s their style. That’s their bread and butter. That’s what got them to 56 wins and against a smaller Phoenix team. Right? That makes sense. That’s what you would do.

Now if you’re the Suns, you got to find a way to make sure that your 5s, your centers, this is something that I’m actually writing about in a story today, don’t succumb to whatever kind of pressure that Minnesota is going to put on the rim. I think when the Timberwolves had that third-quarter run on Sunday, you saw Drew Eubanks allow some and-ones, right. You saw Gobert get to the free-throw line a ton. And that’s exactly the way that Minnesota is going to find a way to win some games in this series and maybe even long term, if it can wear the Suns down over the course of seven games. So keep an eye on that. At ClutchPoints, we call it the fatal flaw, right, the one fatal flaw that can doom the Suns in the 2024 playoffs, and I think that’s it right there.

I think it’s going to come down to center play. How are the Suns going to use the 5 position behind Nurkić? How long is Nurkić going to play? Is Nurkić going to be able to stay out of foul trouble because he’s career averaging over three a game? I think he had five or four in the Sunday game. And then Eubanks, got to play big and physical, but the Suns don’t have someone with the same kind of girth and width that, that Nurkić has. So find a way if not, you’re gonna have to go smaller and try to play with pace and try to enforce yourself on the other end on offense.”


“I’m glad that Brad Beal and Booker, and I think even Frank Vogel talked about how you just have to toss the regular-season matchups in the trash. Now you’re gonna watch the film for sure, for strategy purposes, but the results I mean, the Suns went 3-0, +23.3 per 100 possessions before the bench came in. I mean, that’s just demolition, man. That’s just a carnage. That’s a train wreck.

I think there are things that Suns can take away from it, but as you said, pride kicks in. And I think if there’s a couple of guys, like I think, Anthony Edwards is someone that will take pride in being abused by the Suns and come out and have a really awesome Game 1, and the Timberwolves win, and it’s like, oh, my gosh, like, playoffs are so different.

So that’s what I’m kind of expecting Timberwolves to kind of punch them in the mouth first, but, this is just a match made in heaven for the Suns. All three of their stars like to attack drop coverage, like to pull it from 18-to-20 feet. But Brad Beal can even attack that drop coverage in a different way when he sees that opposing big is behind the screen and is giving him a little bit of leeway of running room, he can zip past him to the rim. I think that’s really changed the dynamic of the Suns since December 28. It’s Brad Beal, getting into the paint, making decisions and opening up shooting for Grayson Allen, Eric Gordon and Royce O’Neale now.

The biggest player in this series is Brad Beal. He’s the most important, I don’t think it’s close. Now KD is going to be able to hunt certain mismatches. But, the Wolves are physical, they are big. The Suns are going to try to find Rudy Gobert on some switches and see if they can attack him that way, like a lot of teams did against Utah back in the day when he was with Donovan Mitchell. So I don’t know, like it’s tough. Like everything is pointed to the Suns in the series. Because the Wolves don’t they don’t have the offense. Do you think they have the offense to keep up? I just, I don’t see it.”

Metcalf from a Wolves’ perspective:

“(The Suns) have kind of been a tricky matchup. Coming into the playoffs, I did think it was going to be kind of the Suns, or the Pelicans, were the two toughest matchups for the Wolves. They’re the two teams who have been able to give them the most issues the most consistently. Obviously, with Zion (Williamson) hurt now, that changes things a little bit, but the three matchups for the Wolves against the Suns this year have been awful.

The Suns have been able to completely take them out of their game, and just completely change what they want to do on both ends of the floor. For most of the season, it was kind of tough to get a real gauge on this matchup because they played each other for the first time, I think it was like early November. That was at the end of a like seven-game road trip for the wolves, and they just got destroyed. I was like, okay, like that tough, like you kind of expect to lose that game, but not by that much.

And then these last two games haven’t been any better. And the Suns have just kind of been running on all cylinders here recently. We knew that their mid-range proficiency with Booker, Beal, Durant, three of the best mid-range scorers in the league, they are able to really target exactly where the Timberwolves try and force teams to take shots from.

The more concerning aspect has been the Timberwolves offense, though, and how careless they’ve been with the ball. And how easily the Suns have been able to kind of take them out of their sets and disrupt what they’re trying to do, that is the more concerning part for me.

The Timberwolves have been fantastic on defense all season. Phoenix is a really tough matchup given what both teams want to do on that end of the floor, but I think they have enough talent where they can at least hold their own, and it shouldn’t be an overwhelming issue. It’s the offensive end where they really, really need to kind of figure out what they’re doing.”

Key Players

Mine for the Suns: Anyone outside of the player(s) the Wolves choose to take away

  • The Wolves are inevitably going to take someone or something away from the Suns. How willing will the role players be to step up or even one of the Big 3 if the Timberwolves allow them to? This was a problem we saw in last year’s playoffs. Now with a brand new team, the Suns should be able to correct this problem based on what we saw in the regular season from Grayson Allen and Royce O’Neale, specifically.

Booth for the Suns: Royce O’Neale

  • “A lot of (Suns’ fans) are going to have their eyes on Royce and how he’s going to look next to the Big 3, and seeing if he can assert himself and be even a starter some way down in the playoffs (because of his defense and playoff experience) … if Royce can come in and relieve Grayson (Allen) and provide that (seamless fit next to the Big 3), like that’s a consistent, well-oiled kind of machine, if you will, for the Suns that they can use. That they can have some stuff that’s working, and then Minnesota has to find ways to continue to try to get back.”

Young for the Suns: Bradley Beal (explanation above)

Metcalf for the Wolves: Anthony Edwards

  • “Is (Edwards) going to be the best player on the floor or not? And if he’s not, if he’s gonna be sloppy with the ball, if his shot selection kind of deteriorates, if he’s not knocking down his outside jumpers, if the defensive effort kind of wanes, the Wolves don’t have a chance. But if the Anthony Edwards that we’ve seen the last two playoff series shows up, the Anthony Edwards that’s likely going to make an All-NBA team at the end of the season shows up, then I think the Wolves have a really, really good chance to come away with winning the series and moving on to the next round. It’s got to be him, unfortunately. I know it’s a little basic. It’s a little easy, but he’s kind of the end all be all with their offense.”

Series Prediction

Mine: Suns in 6

Booth: Suns in 7

Young: Suns in 6

Metcalf: Wolves in 7

  • “I think this is going to be a really fun series. I know the Suns have run away with basically all three of these games this year, but I would expect a little more fight, a little more adjustments and confidence with the Wolves coming into the series. This is the best Timberwolves team, I think in franchise history. Every time there’s a big spot, especially in the playoffs, Anthony Edwards has always risen to the occasion. And I think he’s going to do that this year. They’re a little nicked up here and there, but they’re almost fully healthy. And the Suns are playing some of their best basketball this season right now too. I think it’s going to be a really fun series. I’d be surprised if it went less than six either way, but I think the winner of the series it’s gonna be in seven games, I think it’s probably going to be the best first-round series of the playoffs. But I’m going to I’m just going to lean Timberwolves in seven.”

(Listen to Podcasts for more explanation)

Burn City Suns Talk Podcast: Suns-Wolves Series Preview ft. Trevor Booth, ClutchPoints Suns Reporter

Burn City Suns Talk Podcast: A T-Wolves Perspective on the First Round ft. Tyler Metcalf of No Ceilings NBA, Canis Hoopus

Burn City Suns Talk Podcast: NBA Playoff Series Predictions ft. Shane Young, NBA Writer and Analyst for Forbes Sports


Burn City Suns Talk Podcast: Phoenix Suns Regular-Season Award Show

Game 1 Information

Start Time: 12:30 p.m. MST

Location: Target Center

TV Channel: AZ Family/3TV, ESPN

Radio: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, La Mejor 106.5 FM

Stream: Suns Live (click for more info)

Betting Odds

Line: MIN -1.5

O/U: 214.5

Injury Report

Phoenix Suns: Damion Lee (right meniscus surgery) OUT

Minnesota Timberwolves: N/A

Starters (Projected)

Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, Grayson Allen, Kevin Durant, Jusuf Nurkić

Minnesota Timberwolves: Mike Conley, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Karl Anthony-Towns, Rudy Gobert

Game 1 Prediction

Suns 115 – Timberwolves 108

At least for Game 1, I can’t pick against Phoenix based on what they did in the regular season to Minnesota until we see some adjustments from the Timberwolves’ side. I do think some of these adjustments will be present for Game 1, which is why I have the game being closer, but I just don’t see an immediate turnaround of three-straight blowout losses. With that said, it would not be a bad thing if the Timberwolves have found something specific to capitalize on against the Suns, so they can see that early.

This could be a very exciting game for that reason, as the pressure is on Minnesota to show the Suns what they have because the Suns have overwhelmingly proven to the T-Wolves what they can do to them. I’m just looking forward to seeing how the matchup looks and what little wrinkles are added in with it being a playoff matchup.

Last Meeting (April 14, 2024)

Bradley Beal leads Suns to dominating 125-106 victory over Timberwolves to clinch No. 6 seed in playoffs

Team Matchup Notes

Notes from the Suns on their first-round matchup against the Timberwolves:

Each team’s player stats (via Suns):

Injury Report

Suns, Timberwolves reveal clean injury reports for Game 1

Other Preview Stories

Anthony Edwards has given the Suns plenty of ‘bulletin board material’ over the years

Stephen A. Smith’s bold take on the meaning of this year’s playoffs for Kevin Durant

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Brendan Mau is a senior writer covering the Phoenix Suns and more for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @Brendan_Mau

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