Wolves use reworked defense, tighter focus to beat Suns in Game 1

Phoenix superstar Kevin Durant scored his typical 31 points in Saturday's NBA playoffs Game 1, but the Timberwolves held scorers Devin Booker and Grayson Allen to a combined 5-for-19 shooting in a 120-95 decision just six days after the Suns soundly beat them at Target Center.

Allen went 0-for-3, Booker 5-for-16 on an afternoon Wolves coach Chris Finch shuffled his defensive assignments and asked his team to buckle up. He started veteran point guard Mike Conley on Allen and Jaden McDaniels on Booker while asking the entire team to play more physically and focused on the game plan.

In turn, the Wolves put big man Karl-Anthony Towns' size on Durant and Anthony Edwards on Bradley Beal.

"We just had to make more toughness plays," Finch said. "They out-toughed us in the games that we've played them, so we did that. It showed in the rebounding. We got off to exactly the start we wanted. It set the tone for us."

The Wolves outrebounded the Suns 52-28, including 13-3 on offensive rebounds. NBA Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert had six of those 13 all by himself.

"We were ready to go from the beginning," Finch said. "We survived some of their tough shot-making early, survived some of our turnovers. When they made a little run at us, we were able to re-establish

ourselves. Those are some signs of mentally tough moments."

After trailing 28-27 to end the first quarter, the Wolves outscored Phoenix 65-44 the next two quarters on their way to a lead of as much as 27 points in the second half.

"We just battled them," Finch said. "Booker is dangerous with the ball, Jaden just fights through everything. Keeps fighting and fighting. The ball didn't seem to follow Allen as much, which was helpful. Mike is very good in those off-ball roles."

Three-point shooter Allen went 10-for-16 from long range vs. the Wolves this season, making three threes in Sunday's game. Saturday, he played 25 minutes and picked up an ankle injury, on which X-rays proved negative.

In Sunday's loss, the Wolves committed 19 first-half turnovers and lost 125-106. The Suns swept the three-game regular-season series 3-0.

On Saturday, the Wolves committed only 15 turnovers — six of them by All-Star Anthony Edwards. And they led 61-51 by halftime.

"Certainly with what happened with things last week and previous matchups, we needed to take our games to another level," Finch said. "We hadn't been doing that. We've been playing some good basketball, at times great basketball. Connected, we played hard, played for each other but we haven't been playing desperate basketball, with our chip on our shoulder. That's what we did early in the season when we tired to establish ourselves.

"We did a good job coming out there hungry, with something to prove."