NBA

Gortat hits clutch shots to lead Suns over Timberwolves

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The Associated Press
2/27/2013 12:41:36 AM
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PHOENIX - Season-lows seemed to come every quarter. So did missed shots, passes sailing into the stands, grimaces from coaches.

Phoenix came up with just enough plays to pull it out, ending a momentum-swinging game between two of the NBA's worst teams.

Marcin Gortat hit big shots at the end of regulation and overtime, helping the Suns end a three-game losing streak with an 84-83 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night.

"We made it a little tougher on ourselves, but we will take it," Suns interim coach Lindsey Hunter said. "We still just for some reason do not finish quarters the way we are supposed to."

Phoenix and Minnesota played a game about like you'd expect from teams that came in a combined 34 games under .500.

The Timberwolves set a season low with 33 points in the first half to trail by 14. The Suns let them back in it with a season low of their own: 11 points in the third quarter.

Phoenix pulled away to start the fourth quarter, building a 13-point lead. Minnesota pulled back, rallying to go up by two with 25 seconds left.

Gortat answered in regulation with a layup on a between-the-legs feed from Goran Dragic with 13 seconds left. Gortat then put the Suns up four with 45 seconds left in overtime with another layup, this one on a feed by Wesley Johnson.

Phoenix still had to sweat it out.

Derrick Williams hit a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left to pull the Timberwolves within 84-83 and Nikola Pekovic blocked Johnson's runner at the other end to give Minnesota a shot. The Timberwolves got a good look, too, but Alexey Shved's layup rolled off the rim.

Gortat, Johnson and Markieff Morris had 14 points apiece. Jermaine O'Neal added 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Suns, who ended a four-game home losing streak.

Williams had 21 points and 12 rebounds, Pekovic finished with 18 points and 12 boards, and J.J. Barea had 16 points for Minnesota, which shot 34 per cent for its 19th loss in 23 games.

"You've got to make plays in this league and we're going to have to learn how to make those plays," Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said. "It's as simple as that."

The Timberwolves and Suns each won coming out of the All-Star break, a nice little ray of hope.

Since then, both teams had settled back into their losing ways, combining for five straight losses.

It's no surprise the way things have gone this season.

Minnesota has been plagued by injuries — most notably Kevin Love's broken hand — and entered Tuesday's game last in the Northwest Division, 19 1/2 games behind Oklahoma City after blowing an early 16-point lead in a loss to Golden State on Sunday.

Phoenix cost coach Alvin Gentry his job on Jan. 22 and hasn't been any better under Hunter. With Sunday's 10-point loss to San Antonio, the Suns had lost 11 of 16 under Hunter, falling 21 1/2 games behind the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Clippers.

They played like last-place teams at the start, too.

Minnesota had five turnovers and missed three of four shots in the first 3 minutes. Phoenix opened 2 for 10 and had four turnovers.

It got only marginally better the rest of the quarter as they traded turnovers and missed shots.

How bad was it? The Suns matched a season low in the first quarter and still led 16-15.

"We started off slow again," Williams said. "We're not making shots like we know we can."

Phoenix at least got better. Minnesota didn't, at least not until later.

The Suns' reserves opened the second quarter with a 10-0 run as the Timberwolves missed 10 straight shots and threw a pass that ended up in the stands next to their bench.

Even after making a few shots in the final 90 seconds, Minnesota was 13 for 44 — 1 for 10 from 3-point range — and had six shots blocked. Williams had 13 of its 33 points on 6-of-12 shooting.

Once the third quarter started, the Suns started throwing the ball away and missing shots.

Minnesota opened the second half with a 10-4 run and cut Phoenix's lead to 55-51 on a hard drive by Williams with 2 minutes left. The Suns made 5 of 20 shots and had seven turnovers in an 11-point third quarter.

The Suns turned it on again to open the fourth quarter, going up 68-55 on a 3-pointer by Markieff Morris. Minnesota fought back with a 16-3 run, tying it at 71-all on Barea's 3-pointer from the corner with 4 1-2 minutes left, setting up the close finish that Phoenix pulled out.

"It feels great," said Dragic, who had 10 points and seven assists. "I mean, we get a win."

Notes: Minnesota F Andrei Kirilenko limped off in the first quarter with a left calf strain and didn't return. He missed five games with a strained right quadriceps before playing the past four games. ... The Suns have won 11 of 13 in the series. ... Minnesota's previous season low for the first half was 37 against Memphis on Feb. 10. ... Phoenix hadn't won at home since Jan. 30 against the Lakers.

Marcin Gortat (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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