Versatile Timberwolves aim to go up 2-0 against Suns

Field Level Media

April 22, 2024 at 9:33 pm.

Minnesota Timberwolves coach Chris Finch fully understood that his initial game plan for beating the Phoenix Suns in the playoffs would have a short shelf life.

It worked in Game 1. That doesn’t mean the same plan will work in Game 2.

“I’m sure they’re going to be making adjustments,” Finch said, “as are we.”

The Timberwolves will try to seize a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series when they tip off Tuesday evening in Minneapolis. The sixth-seeded Suns are looking to pull even against third-seeded Minnesota before the series shifts to Phoenix.

Minnesota is coming off a dominant 120-95 win in the series opener Saturday. Phoenix trailed by four points in the third quarter before the Timberwolves went on a 21-5 run to grab a 20-point advantage and never looked back.

Anthony Edwards finished with 33 points on 14-for-24 shooting, including 4-for-8 from beyond the arc. He also grabbed nine rebounds and dished six assists.

Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 19 points and seven rebounds as a secondary option, but he could take on a bigger role in Game 2. Another player to watch is Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who proved to be a difference maker off the bench Saturday as he finished with 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting.

Will Alexander-Walker set himself apart once again? Or could the wild card be another bench player such as Naz Reid or Kyle Anderson?

Alexander-Walker said any player could step forward on any given night.

“Everyone is just stepping up in whatever that role is,” he said. “If we continue to have the mindset of putting the team first, and being prepared to play, studying film, knowing our roles, then if something is to happen, God forbid, or if we need to make an adjustment, everyone is prepared to do so. Because everyone has been humble and willing to make the right adjustments.”

Phoenix was humbled in Game 1 as it struggled to unlock its offense. Kevin Durant scored 31 points on 11-for-17 shooting but Devin Booker (18 points, 5 of 16) and Bradley Beal (15 points, 6 of 10) were more subdued.

The Suns swept the Timberwolves during the regular season. Booker said he and his teammates needed to have a fresh approach now that the playoffs have arrived.

“We all just need to adjust to the playoffs, the physicality,” Booker said. “They’re being ultra-physical with me, and then I had three early fouls and (went) to the bench. Then it was just trying to find a rhythm from there.”

Suns coach Frank Vogel said he and his assistants would look to help Booker.

“They’ve got some great perimeter defenders on that team, (but) we can be more creative in getting (Booker) open,” Vogel said.

Suns guard Grayson Allen twisted his ankle in Game 1, in which he finished with only four points in 25 minutes. Allen took part in shooting drills after practice Monday and is hoping to be back on the court for Game 2.

Vogel said he was excited for a chance to move past a disappointing opener.

“Healthy respect for this basketball team that we’re playing,” he said. “… We saw what they’re capable of in Game 1, but we’re still very confident that we can play better than we did in Game 1, and we’re very confident in the matchup.”

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