Wolves outgunned by Suns’ hot shooting
PHOENIX (AP) — Steve Nash was threading passes through tiny spaces, Jason Richardson was scoring from everywhere, Channing Frye was stroking 3-pointers as if they were layups.
Filled with energy from the opening tip, the Suns went back to their up-tempo game, smiling and high-fiving their way out of a losing streak.
Frye hit seven of Phoenix’s 15 3-pointers, Nash had 19 assists and the Suns outlasted the Minnesota Timberwolves 128-122 Wednesday night to end a three-game skid.
“That’s the type of team we are,” said Richardson, who scored 24 of his 29 points in the first half to break out of a shooting slump. “If we’re not playing with energy, high-fiving, smiling, helping each other out, we’re not good. When we have that energy, we’re at our best. We have to find a way to have that energy every night.”
Phoenix had lost its previous three games by digging big holes. The Suns shot their way out of the losing streak, putting seven players in double figures, shooting 50 percent from the field and making seven of 11 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to pull away.
Frye and Grant Hill had 21 points each, Nash hit six free throws late to finish with 11 points and Phoenix shot 15 of 27 from 3-point range overall. The undersized Suns — 29th in rebounding — even crashed the boards to outrebound the NBA’s best rebounding team by seven.
So what if there wasn’t much defense — by either team? When you’re scoring like that and winning, it sure is fun.
“Right now, it’s the best thing that could have happened to us,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “We just needed a win.”
Minnesota tried to keep pace with the push-the-pace Suns. The Timberwolves just ran out of gas after playing at Golden State the night before.
Minnesota shot 53 percent and got another huge game from huge power forward Kevin Love, who had 23 points and 16 rebounds despite wincing from pain after a hard fall in the first quarter. Corey Brewer had 20 points off the bench, Wesley Johnson and Michael Beasley added 17 each and Minnesota had six players in double figures.
The Timberwolves just couldn’t stop Nash from penetrating or get out to Phoenix’s shooters, leading to their ninth consecutive road loss.
“We just made a bunch of mistakes in our defensive coverage,” Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis said. “Whether it was pick-and-rolls or transition, from the very start of the game guys weren’t putting their heads down and running back.”
Stuck in a don’t-play-well-early funk, the Suns welcomed Minnesota to town.
The Timberwolves had lost five straight to Phoenix the previous two seasons by an average of 18 points and hadn’t exactly been playing well this year.
Heading into Wednesday’s game, the Timberwolves were 6-19 — already 11 games behind Utah in the Northwest Division. They’d been abysmal on the road, too, 1-13 this season, 1-25 the past two.
The Suns got off to a fast start for once, but so did the Timberwolves in a highlight-trading first half.
Guess that was to be expected from two of the league’s worst defensive teams.
Richardson got the Suns going. He’d been mired in a three-game funk, scoring 18 combined points on 6-of-28 shooting while missing all 12 of his 3-point attempts.
Richardson ended the slump quickly, opening with a full-of-confidence jumper to open the game, scoring 11 points in the first 4 minutes. He kept firing, too, scoring 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting by halftime.
“I’m feeling great,” said Richardson, who had been battling a cold. “I’m finally getting some energy.”
Love led the Timberwolves early, bulling his way through the Suns, and Beasley did most of his damage during a flurry in the second quarter. They combined for 21 points, helping Minnesota hit 24 of 46 shots for a 56-all tie.
That turned out to just be the start of the fun.
With everyone seeming to hit from everywhere — 3-pointers, alley-oops, even sweeping hooks — the Suns and Timberwolves combined to make 24 of 45 shots in the third quarter. That set up an offense-filled final quarter that Phoenix pulled out behind its seven 3-pointers and six straight free throws by Nash in the final 23 seconds.
“It’s happened to us a lot this year,” said Minnesota big man Darko Milicic, who had 16 points. “We just can’t finish up the games. We had a game we could win, but we just couldn’t do it.”
NOTES: A fan hit a halfcourt shot during a third-quarter timeout to win a 65-inch TV. … Suns C Robin Lopez had 12 points and eight rebounds after missing the previous 14 games with a sprained left knee. … Phoenix has scored at least 110 points in its last six games against Minnesota.
Updated December 15, 2010