MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Boris Diaw’s teammates scanned the stat sheet in the Phoenix locker room and did a double-take when they saw his line.
Diaw sure did, sparking a Suns team that was at its up-tempo best. Paced by a career-high 31 points, 11 rebounds and five assists from the versatile forward, Phoenix raced past the stumbling Minnesota Timberwolves 103-89 on Monday night.
“When it’s like that, you just keep going until you miss,” said Diaw, who shot 11-for-16 from the field and 9-for-9 from the foul line.
Kevin Garnett (26 points and 19 rebounds) and Wally Szczerbiak (27 points) helped the Timberwolves pull within 80-77 early in the fourth quarter after a follow dunk by Garnett to cap a 12-2 run. Then the Suns called timeout with 10:11 left and sped away with the game.
All the work done by Minnesota to get back in it was negated by a terrible stretch of transition defense. James Jones sank a 3-pointer, and Eddie House hit a jumper followed by a pull-up 3-pointer off the fast break. Jones made another shot from behind the arc, and Diaw added an easy layup to cap the 13-0 spurt that took just over four minutes.
“They play with the ultra-green light,” a frustrated Szczerbiak said. “Anyone that steps on the floor is a complete basketball player.”
Including the emerging Diaw. Steve Nash, too quick for Marko Jaric and Troy Hudson, had 24 points and 12 assists. Shawn Marion added 21 points and 16 rebounds for Phoenix, which had lost five of its previous seven. But Diaw provided quite a spark, exactly what the Suns need with star Amare Stoudemire out.
“That’s the system we have. We’ve got equal opportunity out here,” Marion said. “It’s just a matter of who gets it going.”
A 23-year-old Frenchman who came to Phoenix this summer with two future first-round draft picks from the Hawks in a trade for Joe Johnson, Diaw led his team on another 13-0 charge—this one to start the second half. He contributed an assist, two free throws, a dunk, a layup and another foul shot during the spurt. Quicker than most power forwards and taller than most swingmen, the 6-foot-8 Diaw is capable of creating matchup problems.
“They got to make a choice,” he said. “Sometimes it works for me.”
The Wolves, in Diaw, saw a different player than the one who spent his first two years with Atlanta.
“It seems like anyone who goes down there, they get better,” Szczerbiak said. “It resurrects their careers.”
Minnesota wanted to keep high-energy Phoenix from playing that frantic pace, as most opponents do, but there was little sign of success.
“They’re better at it than we are right now,” coach Dwane Casey said.
The Suns scored 12 of their first 14 points on layups or dunks, surging to a 16-6 lead, and had four fast-break baskets before halftime on the way to a 45-42 edge. The Wolves, who have noticeably improved their defense this season, couldn’t do enough to disrupt the Suns’ flow.
Defensive standout Trenton Hassell scored eight of his 14 points in a one-minute span late in the first quarter, but Minnesota—unlike Phoenix—was again missing another consistent scoring option. After the game, Garnett urged Casey to use up-and-down rookie Rashad McCants more to see if he can fill that void.
“It’s got to come from somewhere,” Garnett said.
Bell was called for a charging foul in the first quarter for running over the Wolves’ Mark Madsen, who bruised his back and was later taken to the locker room for examination after playing six scoreless minutes. Madsen tried to loosen up during halftime warmups, but he was in too much pain to return. He said he would try to practice Tuesday.
Minnesota’s Michael Olowokandi missed the game, his first absence this season, after having an X-ray on his right elbow in the afternoon—which revealed no broken bones. Olowokandi has soreness and swelling in the joint. Madsen started at center instead, the first starting lineup change Casey has had to make. … Stoudemire, who hasn’t played this season following left knee surgery, has joined the team on this road trip and could be ready to start on-court drills in a couple of weeks, coach Mike D’Antoni said. Stoudemire is expected back around the All-Star break in February. … Former Minnesota Twins teammates Joe Mauer and Corey Koskie chatted on the edge of the court at halftime. Koskie, a native Canadian just like Nash, now plays for the Toronto Blue Jays but still has a home in the Twin Cities area.