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Wolves vs. Suns: Will playoffs be a repeat of regular season?

The Phoenix Suns on Sunday swept their three-game season series with the Timberwolves — each loss as convincing as the other.

But that was then.

On Saturday, the teams will meet again at Target Center, this time with the Wolves seeded third against the sixth-seeded Suns in Game 1 of a first-round NBA playoff series. The full first-round schedule has yet to be announced.

"It means nothing," Suns coach Frank Vogel said about games gone by, no matter how recent.

The Suns won by double digits all three times, including twice this month; their victory April 5 was not nearly as close as its 10-point final margin. Sunday's regular-season finale was a 125-106 decision that kept a Target Center sellout crowd hushed from start to finish.

The Wolves' chance to earn the Western Conference's top seed ended as they fell past Oklahoma City and Denver to third. The Suns' victory and New Orleans' loss to the Lakers lifted Phoenix past the Pelicans and out of the league's play-in tournament that starts Tuesday.

The Suns' uneven 49-33 regular season ended with them winning their last three games, four of their last six and 10 of their last 14 behind stars Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal and Devin Booker, all of whom now are healthy at the same time.

First in the Western Conference and in defensive ranking most of the year, the Wolves now face a talented team probably playing its best basketball this season, more gifted than a typical sixth seed.

"Whether it's our best, we still probably don't know," said Beal, who was acquired last June from Washington in a three-way trade that also included Indiana. "We haven't even really put together a full season with us three playing together. Still, with the amount of games we've played, I think we're definitely hitting our stride at the right time. In the playoffs, anything can happen."

The Wolves are just getting their Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns big-man tag team back together now that Towns has started the past two games after missing 18 because of meniscus knee surgery.

"You can't make too much out of regular-season matchups," Vogel said. "We have the utmost respect for their basketball team. They haven't played their best against us, but we've seen them kick everybody's butt throughout the season.

"… They've got great size. I love their team. I'm a guy who coached two bigs throughout the course of my career and Coach [Chris] Finch has done a great job with those guys. They've got a lot of talent on that team, both sides of the ball."

The Suns scored 45 points in the first half of Friday night's last-second 108-107 comeback victory at Sacramento. They held a Saturday evening film session that Vogel said carried this message: "Let's show our firepower."

Phoenix scored 44 points in the first quarter alone Sunday. The Wolves committed 19 first-half turnovers and 24 overall. Beal scored 36 points.

"I don't think I've ever been a part of a team that forced 19 turnovers in a half before," Vogel said. "We were flying around. Our coverage execution was great. It's a snapshot of what we look like when we can be at our best."

Durant predicts Saturday's opener won't look anything like the three regular-season games between the teams.

"The game is going to be a lot different," Durant said. "This team is a contending team since Day 1. They'll come in with a different mindset, a different intensity. Yeah, you can look at some of what you did in the regular season, but you can't think that game is going to be like this one."

Vogel said the biggest advantage of avoiding the play-in tournament is as much about getting four days extra rest to heal a season's bumps and bruises. Play-in teams remain sharp and in rhythm by playing an extra game or two, but they don't have time to heal.

"It's a unique challenge," he said.

The Suns flew home after Sunday's game and will return Friday at the latest for at least a four-day visit.

Vogel was asked what his favorite Minneapolis spot is since he and his team will be staying a while.

"Manny's, but I'm open for recommendations," Vogel said, referring to the downtown Minneapolis steakhouse. "Everybody loves Manny's."