Timberwolves-Suns Preview

The Phoenix Suns would like to avoid their longest home losing

streak in nearly two years. A visit from the struggling Minnesota

Timberwolves might be coming at the ideal time.

The Suns look to continue their success against the Timberwolves

in an effort to avoid being swept in a three-game homestand on

Wednesday night.

Phoenix (11-12) has matched its longest overall slide of the

season at three games, though its previous skid from Nov. 17-20

came on the road. This one includes the first two of this

three-game homestand, and the Suns haven’t had a three-game losing

streak at US Airways Center since Jan. 16-31, 2009.

They last dropped four in a row overall from Jan. 13-18, all on

the road.

A matchup with Minnesota (6-19) gives Phoenix a strong chance to

end its slide.

The Suns have won five in a row over the Timberwolves by an

average of 18.0 points. They’ve also taken seven of eight meetings

in Phoenix, including a 152-114 victory March 16 in the most recent

matchup there.

Suns coach Alvin Gentry, though, might be looking for a stronger

start after falling behind by double digits in the first half and

failing to rally in a 101-94 loss to Portland on Friday.

“The only thing that’s disappointing is that we wait until we

get down 15, and then we play like I want us to play at the start

of the game,” Gentry said. “So we’ve got to take care of that in

some kind of way.”

Showing improvement from beyond the arc should help.

Phoenix has made 10 of 44 3-pointers over the last two games,

but is making 37.2 percent of its attempts overall. The team may be

in position to regain that form against Minnesota, which allows

opponents to shoot 39.0 percent from beyond the arc.

Jason Richardson is trying to shake out of his recent funk. The

swingman has totaled 18 points while making 6 of 28 shots from the

field and missing all 12 3-point attempts over the last three


Richardson, the team leader with 19.2 points per game, is

averaging 25.2 points over the last six home meetings with


The Suns are hoping to get a lift from Robin Lopez’s expected

return from a sprained left knee that sidelined him for 14 games.

It is uncertain how much playing time the 7-footer, who averages

5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds, will get.

“He’ll play, although I don’t how long or how effective he’ll

be,” Gentry told the team’s official website. “Just his size will


Phoenix is the worst defensive team in the NBA, allowing 109.5

points per game. However, the Timberwolves aren’t much better at

109.1, and they are 1-13 on the road.

Minnesota’s road woes date back to last season when they tied a

franchise-worst road record at 5-36. The club has dropped 25 of 26

away contests.

The Timberwolves’ current road losing streak reached eight with

Tuesday’s 108-99 loss at Golden State in the second of this

six-game trip.

“Our team needs to learn that if they don’t play hard every

night, we are not going to win,” Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis

said. “Particularly in the second half, we did not give a maximum

effort. We gave them too many second chance opportunities and

turned the ball over too many times.”

Darko Milicic is trying to build on his season-high 25 points

against the Warriors, matching his total from his previous three

games. The forward-center is averaging 9.8 points and 6.1