Timberwolves aim to turn home court into advantage vs. Suns

Sports

Phoenix and Minnesota will attempt to recover from recent bumps in the road when the teams meet Saturday afternoon.

Minnesota’s “bump” has come at home, where the Timberwolves have last four of their past five as they prepare to host a Suns’ team that is on its first three-game losing streak of the season while playing through key injuries.

“A lot of times on the road, the people in your traveling party are the only people in that arena that want you to win,” Minnesota first-year coach Ryan Saunders said, “so there is a common closeness that you feel in terms of banding together to work forward the end goal.

“Sometimes you get more comfortable at home. We have to guard against that. We’ll try to take some steps. It is something we are looking into.”

The Timberwolves have lost three of their past four, including all three at home after a 103-95 loss to Utah on Wednesday.

Minnesota, like Phoenix, has succeeded in increasing its tempo this season while expanding its range. The Timberwolves are averaging a league-high 110.7 possessions per game, and they are third with 39.7 three-point attempts. The Suns rank ninth in possessions (107.5) and are tied for 10th in three-point attempts (35.0)

Center Karl-Anthony Towns, who is averaging 26.0 points and 12.1 rebounds, has made 51-of-115 3-pointers and is well on his way to a career high after making 142 treys last season. Towns has made a career-high seven threes twice this season, the most recent in a 112-102 victory at Utah on Monday.

“You are not going to measure everything just based off the win-and-loss record,” Saunders said of evaluating the new offense.

“A lot of it is how are we improving. Is the system being built? Can you see what we want to do as a group? We feel like we can. Now there is a lot of work to be done, but we feel 15 games in we can see at least a semblance of where we want to trend this thing.”

Andrew Wiggins, averaging 25.6 points a game, had 22 points and seven rebounds in the Wednesday loss to Utah after missing three games will an illness and for personal seasons. Forward Jake Layman (10.5 points a game) is not expected to play against the Suns because of a left toe injury.

The Suns have played without center Aron Baynes (hip) for the past two games and point guard Ricky Rubio (back spasms) for the past one and a half. Rubio played in the first half of a loss at Sacramento on Tuesday.

They have missed Rubio’s presence as a distributor, as well as Baynes’ physical presence in the paint and his defensive awareness. Rubio spent his first six seasons with Minnesota after being the fifth player taken in the 2009 draft.

“You hope they can get back,” Suns coach Monty Williams.

Williams saw a need for more urgency to start each half after a 124-121 loss to New Orleans on Thursday, in which the Pelicans shot 53.4 percent and made their first 10 field goal attempts in the third quarter.

“That’s our ‘hard’ right now,” Williams said. “That’s the hard thing we have to understand, that all of the stuff that happens in the beginning, it puts you in a bind. There’s no scheme for that. You just have to be more locked into the game. We have to understand, and I know our guys, that all of these possessions mean so much.”

Kelly Oubre Jr. is averaging 22.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in his past four games. Second-year guard Elie Okobo had season highs with 11 points and seven assists while playing 20 minutes at the point against New Orleans.

“It felt good to be back on the court,” Okobo said. “I’ve been waiting for this moment. Trying to run the team the best I can and be aggressive.”

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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