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Timberwolves finally win on road, beat Suns

The SportsXchange

PHOENIX -- The Minnesota Timberwolves hadn't won a road game in over a month, fumbling away their latest chance Thursday night in Sacramento. So what happened Friday at US Airways Center was as big a surprise to them as anyone.

Andrei Kirilenko led seven Minnesota players in double figures with 20 points and Rick Rubio added 12 points and eight assists as the Minnesota Timberwolves scored a season-high 67 points in the first half, led by as many as 35 and routed the hapless Phoenix Suns 117-86.

One of several players returning from injury of late, Kirilenko had 11 points in the first quarter when the Timberwolves jumped out to a 15-point lead.

"Right from the beginning we really concentrated and didn't let Phoenix jump on us," Kirilenko said. "We put on the zone, which put them in trouble. We prevented them from scoring inside and forced them to take outside shots and they couldn't score."

Dante Cunningham had 18 points and Greg Stiemsma added 14 each for the Timberwolves, who had lost their last nine straight on the road. But even on a back-to-back, their first win away from home since Feb. 11 at Cleveland was never in doubt.

"You never know when to expect a game like this, but I'd like to have a couple of more. It's a lot more fun," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. "We haven't had a lead like that in a long time. I was worried the whole time because we're not used to it. They made a littler mini-run and got it under 20 points (in the third quarter), and at that point anything can happen."

Luis Scola had 17 points and 12 rebounds and Goran Dragic had 13 points and 10 assists for the Suns, who were officially eliminated from playoff contention Friday and did it with a flourish.

"I just didn't think we played with any fire in the beginning. You put yourself in a hole that way," Suns interim coach Lindsey Hunter said. "This is an opportunity for some of our guys. You should take advantage of the opportunity and play."

Phoenix lost twice to the 25-win Washington Wizards and once to the 24-win Timberwolves within the last seven days and now sit dead last in the Western Conference at 23-47. They are tied with Detroit for the fourth-worst record in the league.

"It's easy to get up for the Lakers, or the Knicks, or the Clippers or the Thunder because they're big game," Suns forward P.J. Tucker said. "We have to find a way to do the same for the Charlotte games, the (Washington) games, the Minnesota games. We have to find a way to dig down deep and be able to fight."

The Suns played without Jared Dudley (flu) and Jermaine O'Neal (calf) and those that suited up didn't put up much of a fight.

Minnesota, who missed 18 of 19 3-pointers in Wednesday's loss in Sacramento, stayed inside early against Phoenix with much better results. They hit 11 of 19 shots in the first period -- seven by Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic -- and led by as many as 15. J.J. Barea's jumper just before the buzzer gave the Timberwolves a 31-18 lead.

The second period was more of the same, Chase Budinger, playing for only the second time after missing 59 games with a left knee injury, scored the first seven points and Berea hit Minnesota's first 3-pointer to push the Timberwolves to a 46-24 lead.

The Suns missed eight of nine 3-pointers in the first half, committed 11 turnovers and Hunter put all 11 healthy players into the game looking for some kind of spark. He didn't get one and Rubio's three-point play with 34.6 seconds left pushed the Minnesota halftime lead to 28 at 67-39.

The Suns shaved the lead to 19 points late in the third quarter, but Minnesota finished with an 11-4 run to regain complete control.

NOTES: Jared Dudley, who played only eight minutes Wednesday against Washington because of the flu, wasn't any better Friday. ... Jermaine O'Neal sat because of a calf sprain suffered in the last minute against the Wizards." ... Ex-Timberwolf Wesley Johnson came in averaging 12.9 points and shooting 44.6 percent from the field as a starter over the last eight games. He was just 2-of-12 from the field on Friday and finished with seven points in 22 minutes. ... Minnesota had lost its last 13 Western Conference road games, including an 84-83 overtime loss in Phoenix on Feb. 26.
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