Wolves crush Suns, take 3-0 lead for 1st time in franchise history

By Thomson Reuters Apr 27, 2024 | 2:37 PM

Anthony Edwards recorded 36 points and nine rebounds as the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the host Phoenix Suns 126-109 on Friday night to take a 3-0 playoff series lead for the first time in franchise history.

The Timberwolves will aim for a sweep in Game 4 of the best-of-seven, first-round Western Conference series on Sunday night in Phoenix.

Rudy Gobert added 19 points and 14 rebounds and Karl-Anthony Towns added 18 points and 13 boards for third-seeded Minnesota. Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 12 of his 16 points in the third quarter, Mike Conley had 15 points and seven assists and Naz Reid added 13 points for the Timberwolves.

Edwards said of looking for the close-out win, “I’ve never been here so I don’t know. I can’t speak about how tough it is. I just come out here and play my game and have my guys be ready to win. I don’t know how tough it is. I haven’t won a series yet. I’ve been sent home twice, so I’m thirsty to get it.”

Wolves coach Chris Finch added, regarding the franchise’s lack of playoff success, “I don’t care what happened beforehand. The reality is we have a lot of guys who like playing together and they play the right way. They let me coach them hard and it’s been fun. That’s the foundation of being able to grow this little by little.

“Long way to go for us, but we don’t really care what happened before because that doesn’t relate to any of us.”

Bradley Beal scored 28 points, Kevin Durant added 25 and Devin Booker registered 23 points and eight assists for the sixth-seeded Suns. Eric Gordon added 11 points.

“We put ourselves in a hole and we have to dig ourselves out of it. That’s that,” Booker said. He added of the Phoenix fans booing, “Rightfully so.”

Edwards scored 18 points in the final quarter. He has seven career postseason performances of 30 or more points, tying Kevin Garnett for the franchise record.

No team has recovered from a 3-0 playoff deficit in NBA history.

“They say no one has ever done it before,” Booker said. “That’s exciting.”

Phoenix went 3-0 against the Timberwolves in the regular season with an average winning margin of 15.7 points.

Minnesota shot 49.4 percent from the floor on Friday, including 13 of 34 from 3-point range.

The Suns connected on 46.1 percent of their shots and were 11 of 28 from behind the arc while getting outrebounded 50-28. Grayson Allen (ankle) sat out for Phoenix.

“We got outplayed,” Suns coach Frank Vogel said. “That’s on all of us. Win as a team, lose as a team. Got killed on the boards. They are a stronger team than we are. We got to compete.”

Phoenix trailed 97-73 after Edwards made the first basket in the fourth quarter for the Timberwolves.

The Suns responded. Beal helped Phoenix cut the deficit in half when he made a 3-pointer to pull the Suns within 104-92 with 7:17 to go.

But Minnesota fought off the comeback attempt and pushed the lead back to the 20. Gobert scored and split two free throws after Josh Okogie was called for a flagrant foul 2 on the play with 2:54 left, increasing the lead to 119-99.

Alexander-Walker made four 3-pointers in the third quarter when the Timberwolves outscored Phoenix 36-20.

Towns scored consecutive baskets to start the third as Minnesota held a 63-53 lead.

Conley and Towns drained back-to-back 3-pointers a short time later to make it 69-58 with 8:09 remaining. After Booker scored for the Suns, Alexander-Walker buried two 3-pointers in less than a minute as the Timberwolves increased the lead to 75-60.

Alexander-Walker connected on another trey to make it 83-64 with 4:53 left in the quarter. Reid hit a corner 3-pointer to push the lead to 20 with 3:39 remaining.

Alexander-Walker’s final 3-pointer of the quarter came with 1:31 left and was followed by Reid’s dunk as Minnesota took a 95-73 lead into the final stanza.

Edwards scored 16 first-half points to help the Timberwolves hold a 59-53 halftime lead. Durant scored 14 in the half for Phoenix.

–Field Level Media