Timberwolves-Suns Preview

The Associated Press

The Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns each won in their return from the All-Star break, but neither team has gotten back into the win column since.

One of the two last-place clubs will change that Tuesday night when they meet in Phoenix.

Minnesota (20-33) fended off Philadelphia 94-87 on Wednesday, but then allowed Oklahoma City and Golden State to reach the century mark in back-to-back losses.

The Timberwolves couldn't get enough stops late in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Warriors. They led by six with 6:20 remaining but were outscored 15-8 down the stretch in a 100-99 defeat.

Former Arizona star Derrick Williams had 23 points - one shy of matching a season high - and 12 rebounds in the defeat, and Nikola Pekovic scored 21.

"We played well and gave ourselves a great chance to win. We just couldn't finish it," coach Rick Adelman said. "These are things we've got to learn from."

The Western Conference-worst Suns (18-39) have lost three in a row since a 102-98 win at Portland last Tuesday, falling 97-87 Sunday to San Antonio to match a season high with a fourth consecutive home defeat.

Phoenix trailed by as many as 21 in the fourth quarter of that game before making the final score a little more respectable. Marcin Gortat had 21 points and 12 rebounds, but was the only Suns player to make more than three field goals against the league's leading team.

"We just have to be smarter and just continue to get better execution-wise at both ends of the floor," interim coach Lindsey Hunter said. "We'll continue to chip away at getting better."

Minnesota came out on top 111-107 despite Luis Scola's season-high 33 points when these teams met at the Target Center on Dec. 29. With 28 points, Pekovic was one of three Timberwolves players to score at least 20, but one of those will not play Tuesday.

Kevin Love, who had 23 points and 18 rebounds in that win, is hoping to return from a fractured right hand in time to play the final 15 to 20 games this season. The Timberwolves will try to make up for his absence while earning back-to-back wins over Phoenix for the first time in more than eight years.

Minnesota won five straight in the series from Dec. 3, 2003-Dec. 3, 2004, then lost 20 of the next 25 matchups before prevailing in two of the past three. The Timberwolves snapped a nine-game skid to the Suns and a five-game losing streak in Phoenix with a 127-124 victory in their most recent visit March 12.

Love's 30 points led six Minnesota players in double figures in that win. Pekovic had 24 and Williams scored 19 off the bench on 7-of-10 shooting.

Jared Dudley scored a season-high 28 points for Phoenix and is averaging 22.0 on 63.4 percent shooting in his last three home games against Minnesota.

The Timberwolves are beginning a three-game trip having dropped 13 of their last 15 on the road, including six in a row at West foes.

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