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Wolves still come up empty on road against lowly Suns

By Chris HineDecember 16, 2018

PHOENIX Road games dont come much more winnable in the Western Conference than the Wolves Saturday night matchup in Phoenix. They were playing the only team in the conference not in playoff contention, they had two full days off to prepare and the rebuilding Suns were without Trevor Ariza, who they had traded to the Wizards earlier in the day.

But few things this season have gone according to plan for the Wolves, who had all sorts of issues containing Devin Booker and hitting three-pointers in a 107-99 loss. The Wolves ended their second long road trip of the season 0-4 after going 0-5 on another road trip out west earlier this season and have yet to beat a Western Conference team on the road this season, going 0-11.

The Wolves shot only 7-for-35 from three-point range and had trouble scoring in the second half as Phoenix pressed a defense that has fallen off since a strong homestand.

If not for Derrick Rose (25 points on 11-for-16 shooting), the Wolves would have been out of Saturdays game a lot earlier. Rose was the only Wolves player to score in the fourth quarter until a Dario Saric layup with 1:20 to play. Devin Booker was a handful for the Wolves to contain and finished with 28 points for Phoenix.

With Dario Saric starting for the missing Taj Gibson (personal reasons) The Wolves held on to a 30-28 after a first quarter that featured a rare sight two different stoppages for infection control. Luckily, the CDC didnt need to intervene. One of those stoppages came for Robert Covington, who had to leave the floor for a few minutes to attend to a bloody nose.

Even when Covington returned, the Wolves defensive woes picked up where they left off Wednesday against Sacramento when they allowed a season high 141 points. The Suns shot 11 of 19 for the quarter. Towns made sure they left the quarter with the lead as he scored 12.

With Taj Gibson out for personal reasons, Thibodeau gave some run to Anthony Tolliver, who joined the second unit at the end of the first and start of the second quarter. Thibodeau also didnt have Covington begin the second quarter again with Covington playing his third game back after missing the beginning of this road trip because of right knee soreness. Those minutes went to rookie Josh Okogie. Covington has said his knee is fine but again those early minutes went to Okogie in the second quarter while Okogie had trouble at times staying in front of Suns guard Devin Booker.

(can trim) The bench held its own against the Suns reserves, which included former Wolves guard Jamal Crawford, but Thibodeau turned back to his starters plus Derrick Rose with more than six minutes remaining in the quarter and the Wolves leading by only four.

Rose scored 12 in the first half while Towns continued dominating in the post, scoring 21 on 9 of 17 shooting. The Wolves hit 48 percent of their shots in the first half, but the problem was their inconsistent defense, specifically their inability to contain Booker. The Suns committed 11 turnovers in the first half, but even with the Wolves best defender in Covington guarding him, Booker went for 13 points and five assists in the first half.

But in the second half, the offense was lacking while Booker kept plaguing the defense.

The Wolves went 8 for 24 in the quarter as Phoenix dominated the third to take an 85-77 lead with 1:18 to play in the quarter. Towns scored just two points in the third and the Suns kept up the pressure into the fourth quarter. Buckets from Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and T.J. Warren helped the Wolves build a 96-84 lead with seven minutes to play and the Wolves lacked the firepower to overcome that deficit.

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