Suns go long in victory over Timberwolves
PHOENIX — Jeff Hornacek wasn’t exactly giving up a trade secret.
"Length helps in this league," the Suns coach said.
And that’s why those who revel in minutiae attached to the NBA Draft will memorize the glorious details of a prospect’s reach and wingspan.
Something that’s not quite common knowledge around the league is that Phoenix is developing more than a Lilliputian backcourt. Now that Brandan Wright has joined Alex Len and Miles Plumlee along the baseline, the Suns have the capacity to live a bit larger.
"I thought our bigs did a great job tonight," Hornacek said after Friday’s 110-99 triumph over the Minnesota Timberwolves. "When our bigs play well, it gives us a big lift."
We’re not sure if bigs providing a small lift qualifies as an oxymoron, but you get the point.
For the record, we also won’t go nuts and suggest a Suns’ rise or fall will be anything but commensurate with how well Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and their perimeter cronies perform. If the guards struggle, it’s lights out in Phoenix.
But while anticipating above-average play from the relative little guys, receiving more gusto from the rim-area guys could make the Suns truly dangerous.
By the way, Friday’s win was their 12th in the last 16 games and keeps the Suns (24-18) locked in the eighth position among teams in the Western Conference. It should be noted the 10th-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder — expected to provide really loud footsteps over the second half of this season — spent their evening smacking the top-seeded Golden State Warriors.
After Monday’s date with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Suns’ playoff-contending chops will be tested by five nasty teams coming in to finish this eight-game homestand.
Anyway, with Dragic being quietly stellar (21 points, eight assists, five rebounds) and Gerald Green mustering one of those eruptions (19 points) we’ve been missing, the Phoenix bigs provided necessary support against Minnesota.
Starting center Alex Len scored all three of his buckets early, grabbed a dozen rebounds overall and rotated quickly enough against dribble penetration to block two shots.
Wright, working just under 20 minutes, provided 11 points (on 5-of-6 shooting), blocked a shot, altered a few others and was active in show/recover duties as a pick-and-roll defender.
Three of his hoops arrived on screen-roll lobs and another occurred after he challenged Mo Williams — who scored 52 points for the T-wolves earlier this week — coming off a screen, forced a missed jumper, hustled down the floor and converted a fast-break lob.
"He’s a veteran," Hornacek said of the 6-foot-10 lefty. "He’s played on a great team in Dallas. He knows when to make the move to the basket, when to avoid the contact and get to the open space.
"And defensively, you see he’s got long arms and he’s a quick jumper. A couple of those plays, he got called for one foul, but then blocked another one. He can come from out of position and still recover and have an effect on a shot."
Speaking of recover, Miles Plumlee — whose rotation minutes have been limited since Wright arrived — played 9:22 in the second half and sort of thrived. Plumlee took three shots, made them all, grabbed a couple of rebounds and had a deflection that led to a transition basket.
"He played well," Hornacek said. "He had a good practice yesterday. Miles is a good player. When he gets in there with those guys and he’s active and gets rebounds and rolls to the basket … he made a jump-shot turnaround. He had a nice game."
Over at power forward, Markieff Morris followed Wednesday’s 35-point salvo against the Cleveland Cavaliers with a quiet evening all around. After knocking in nine points during the first quarter, Markieff finished with 13.
Despite having Morris seemingly locked in for solid performances on most games, Len remains the big key to the Suns’ playoff push. Although he had scant involvement in the offense Friday, and didn’t have injured Nikola Pekovic to deal with, just being a focused, 7-1 presence can provide salve for a few defensive wounds.
"It’s easier for us," Dragic said of having Len, "because we can be more aggressive, especially defensively, and we can pressure the ball. Even if we got beat, we know Alex is going to be there and he is changing so many shots. Every game he’s better and better."