Suns survive, hand Wolves 13th straight loss
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Wiggins and the Minnesota Timberwolves were 10 minutes away from snapping a torturous losing streak that has already turned this season into a lost cause.
Then an old, familiar face stepped in for the Phoenix Suns to remind the Wolves of their failures of the past and help prolong the misery of the present.
Gerald Green scored 15 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter to scorch his former team and the Suns handed the Timberwolves their 13th straight loss, 113-111 on Wednesday night.
Green came to Minnesota from Boston in the Kevin Garnett trade in 2007, but the Wolves – and the Celtics, Nets, Pacers and Mavericks – never were able to coax the kind of instant offense out of him that the Suns have nurtured the last two seasons.
Green hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, helping the Suns wipe away a seven-point deficit to start the period in the blink of an eye. Goran Dragic added 25 points and the Suns (22-16) survived a scare from the undermanned Timberwolves to win for the 10th time in 12 games.
”He got to the Gerald we all know and love,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. ”Coming down, pulling up for 3s, and just letting them go sometimes and that was huge getting us back in the game.”
Andrew Wiggins scored 25 points, but missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have won the game for the Timberwolves, who haven’t won since Dec. 10. Mo Williams added 23 points and 11 assists and the Wolves led by as many as 13 points. But they turned the ball over 22 times to fall to 5-29 on the season.
”I see growth in each one of our young guys’ game,” Williams said. ”But I think the main goal now is to win a basketball game. Growth is good. Great for you guys to write about. Good story. But we don’t like losing.”
It’s already been a long, cold winter for the Wolves, who have played most of the season without Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic because of injuries and are headed toward their 11th straight appearance in the lottery. On a night when the temperatures dipped to 9-below zero – prompting the Wolves to take $9 off every available ticket in an effort to get fans to support a struggling team – they led 102-101 with under two minutes to play.
But Isaiah Thomas scored on a drive to start a 6-0 burst capped by a steal and dunk by Eric Bledsoe off a poor inbound pass from Chase Budinger that gave Phoenix the lead for good with 55 seconds to play.
Wiggins had a great look to win it after Thomas missed a free throw, but the ball clanked off the rim to allow the Suns to escape.
”I thought it was going in,” Wiggins said. ”Thought it was right on target. Just came off a little short.”
The Suns shot just 36 percent and turned the ball over nine times in the first half, allowing the Timberwolves to hang around thanks to 50 percent shooting.
The Suns were 2 for 20 from 3-point range through three quarters before Green got going. He hit three shots from deep in the first three minutes of the fourth, then hit two free throws for an 86-82 lead with 8:22 to play.
Suns: Markieff Morris’ technical foul in the third quarter was his eighth of the season, the second-most by an NBA player this season. … Alex Len had nine points, eight rebounds and five blocks. … Bledsoe had 17 points and seven rebounds.
Timberwolves: Flip Saunders said Martin and Pekovic participated in some light contact on Wednesday morning and are getting closer to returning. Saunders said it will take some time for them to get their conditioning back before they’re ready to play. … The Wolves waived PF Jeff Adrien a day before having to guarantee his contract for the rest of the season.
Television replays showed a heated exchange between Hornacek and Marcus Morris in the third quarter after Morris picked up a technical foul. Morris had to be pulled away by an assistant coach after yelling at Hornacek.
”Everyone is competing and laying it out there,” Hornacek said. ”I like our guys playing with emotion, but they’ve got to control it sometimes.”
Morris declined to comment on it to reporters after the game, but did tweet an apology after leaving the arena.
”Gotta be a better professional for my younger teammates and can’t let my emotions get the best of me,” Morris wrote on Twitter. ”Love my coach and my team. Great win.”
Suns: Visit San Antonio on Friday.
Timberwolves: Visit Milwaukee on Friday.