Minnesota (17-63) at Phoenix (38-42)

By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO, STATS Writer Monday, Apr 11, 2011 Tipoff: 10:00 pm EDT Mon Apr 11, 2011

The Phoenix Suns are assured of finishing with a record below .500 for the first time in nine seasons. There wasn’t much doubt in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ continuing their run of misery.

The Suns look to capitalize on another meeting with the Timberwolves and extend their winning streak in the series to eight games Monday night.

Phoenix (38-42) was a Western Conference finalist last season. This time, the Suns are missing the playoffs and guaranteed to finish with a losing record for the first time since 2003-04.

Dropping eight of their last 10, concluding a 1-4 road trip with Sunday’s 115-90 loss at Dallas, has assured them of a sub-.500 record - something the Timberwolves (17-63) have achieved six straight years.

With two games left in the regular season, Minnesota has dropped 13 in a row, will finish last in the West for a second consecutive time, and is tied with Cleveland for the worst record in the NBA.

The Suns may bring the Timberwolves closer to sole possession of that dubious honor. They’ve won 18 of their last 23 meetings with the Timberwolves, including nine of 11 at home.

Phoenix ran their winning streak in the series to seven with a 108-98 victory at Minnesota on Wednesday behind 58 points from the bench.

Marcin Gortat(notes) had 20 points and 16 rebounds in that meeting and may play a prominent role again. The center, averaging career highs of 10.0 points and 7.8 rebounds, scored 15 points and pulled down nine boards Sunday.

He’s averaging 14.2 points and 11.1 rebounds over his last nine games.

Steve Nash’s(notes) status is unclear after he was limited to 25 minutes against the Mavericks, getting six points and nine assists to match his production in a reduced role at Minnesota. The All-Star point guard has missed three of the last six games while battling a hamstring injury.

“(Coach Alvin Gentry) didn’t want to push it, especially because we weren’t in the game,” Nash said of his playing time Sunday. “It’s tight, it’s sore. But I still want to play these last two games. If I’m able, I’ll be out there.”

Nash is averaging 18.1 points and 11.6 assists over his last 11 home meetings with the Timberwolves.

Minnesota, which hasn’t beaten the Suns since Jan. 16, 2009, has been outscored by an average of 14.3 points during its 13-game skid - its longest since dropping 16 in a row Feb. 24-March 28, 2010.

The Timberwolves’ woes showed few signs of letting up Saturday. They lost 130-106 at Denver while giving up a franchise-record 19 3-pointers.

Minnesota forward Michael Beasley(notes) was held to 14 points Saturday after topping 20 in each of his previous three contests, including 24 against the Suns last week. Beasley is averaging 20.4 points in his last five meetings with Phoenix.

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Monday, Apr 11