The Minnesota Timberwolves are beginning to string together some wins and will go for their sixth in the last eight games when they visit the Phoenix Suns on Saturday. The Timberwolves lead the Northwest Division and are beginning to get the hang of working together on the defensive end.
Minnesota is trying to build around former No. 1 overall picks Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, but it was the acquisition of veteran swingman Jimmy Butler over the summer that took the team to another level, and he is at his best down the stretch. “You can’t say enough about the way Jimmy closes out,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters after Butler scored 25 points in Wednesday’s 112-104 win at the Denver Nuggets. “It’s just one big play after the next. Big shots, drawing the foul again, making the right plays. It’s tremendous.” Butler suffered through one of his worst games last Saturday, when he was held to 10 points and missed a chance to tie or win in the final seconds of a 108-106 home loss to the Suns. That win snapped a five-game slide for Phoenix and gave the team enough momentum to win three of four, capped by a 97-95 triumph over Memphis on Thursday.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, FS North (Minnesota), FS Arizona (Phoenix)
ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (19-13): Since going 5-of-18 from the field and not attempting a free throw in the loss to Phoenix, Butler is 20-of-36 from the floor and 19-of-20 from the line in back-to-back wins. “My teammates, they have the utmost confidence in me to take and make shots as of late,” Butler told reporters. “But if I’m open and it’s my shot, I’m going to shoot it. If it’s not, I’m going to pass it. I have just as much faith in my teammates as I do myself.” Butler should have some confidence in fellow veteran Jamal Crawford, who totaled 43 points on 17-of-30 shooting in the last two games after scoring in single digits in each of the previous three contests.
ABOUT THE SUNS (12-22): Devin Booker’s extended absence due to a groin injury is giving other players a chance to shine, and Isaiah Canaan is making the most of his opportunity. Phoenix signed the 26-year-old free agent with an injury hardship waiver and has gotten four straight double-digit scoring efforts and an average of five assists off the bench from Canaan. Shooting guard Troy Daniels is also stepping up of late and buried the go-ahead 3-pointer to cap off a 14-point effort on Thursday and boost his scoring average over the last five games to 16.4 points.
1. Wiggins is 12-of-42 from the floor, including 1-of-11 from 3-point range, in the last three games.
2. Suns C Greg Monroe recorded eight points, 12 rebounds and seven assists on Thursday after sitting out the previous three games.
3. Phoenix earned a 118-110 home win over Minnesota behind 35 points apiece from Booker and TJ Warren on Nov. 11.
PREDICTION: Timberwolves 110, Suns 102