Phoenix (41-13) had won a team-record 17 in a row heading into the finale of a five-game road trip at Minnesota on Jan. 29. The Suns were unable to slow down Kevin Garnett, who scored 15 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Timberwolves to a 121-112 victory.
“Garnett hit everything and that’s why he makes the big bucks,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said after that matchup. “He is hard to handle.”
An injured Garnett sat out the only other meeting this season and the Suns rolled to a 131-102 victory on Jan. 21.
The loss to the Timberwolves (25-29) eight days later began what turned into a 3-5 slump for Phoenix, though three of those defeats came with Nash sidelined by a shoulder problem. The two-time reigning MVP has been back in the lineup for both games following the All-Star break and the Suns have won each contest.
One night after routing the Los Angeles Clippers 115-90 to end a three-game losing streak, Phoenix stopped a three-game skid at home with a 118-108 win over Boston on Wednesday.
Nash had 13 points and 12 assists on Tuesday before sitting out the fourth quarter, and had 14 points and 13 assists against the Celtics but also committed seven turnovers as Phoenix struggled to hold off the league’s worst team.
“I’m happy that physically I feel decent,” Nash said when asked about playing on back-to-back nights. “But, obviously, my shoulder is not 100 percent yet.”
If the Suns win Friday, they could be headed for another long winning streak. This contest kicks off a four-game road trip which also includes games at Atlanta, Indiana and Philadelphia, and Phoenix is 12-0 this season on the road against Eastern Conference foes.
Minnesota hasn’t had a winning streak of more than four games all season, and has gone 5-13 since Jan. 15 to enter this matchup at risk of falling a season-high five games under .500.
The Wolves were at .500 when coach Dwane Casey was fired on Jan. 23, and Randy Wittman has gone 5-9 since taking over.
“I’m tired of guys pouting on the floor, during the game,” Wittman said after his team blew a 17-point lead in Wednesday’s 100-95 home loss to Charlotte. “You cannot do that during games. Give me guys that have no talent, and you’re going to lose the game but go down fighting. We didn’t go down fighting tonight.”
Garnett had 22 points and 11 rebounds on Wednesday to record his NBA-leading 47th double-double, but Ricky Davis, the Wolves’ second-leading scorer, was held to eight points.
It was the opener of a five-game homestand for Minnesota, which dropped out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and enters Friday tied for 10th in the standings. The final four games of the homestand are all against division leaders.
“We have to get ready for Phoenix because the next two, three games are going to be tough ones,” Minnesota’s Mark Blount said. “So we have to be ready to play.”