The Suns are expected to have stars Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal on the floor together for the first time this season when Phoenix plays host to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.
Minnesota has won seven straight and is playing less than 24 hours after beating the Golden State Warriors 104-101 in San Francisco on Tuesday night in an NBA in-season tournament game.
The Wolves improved to 2-0 in the tournament’s five-team West Group C after a chaotic first two minutes of the game. Golden State’s Klay Thompson and Draymond Green and Minnesota’s Jaden McDaniels were ejected following a scuffle at midcourt.
“We found a way to win ugly in a game that was pretty ugly,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said. “Those guys were super physical and took us out of our rhythm, but we found a way to win it and showed some toughness mentally.”
Karl-Anthony Towns scored 33 points and grabbed 11 rebounds Anthony Edwards added 20 points for Minnesota. Rudy Gobert recorded a game-high 13 rebounds.
Phoenix has lost two straight and could face an adjustment period in the regular-season debut for Durant, Booker and Beal. The trio did play together in two preseason games.
Booker missed the Suns’ past five games due to a right calf strain, while Beal has only appeared in three games while battling lower back issues.
Phoenix is also hoping to welcome back guard Eric Gordon, who is listed as day-to-day after missing one game with a left shoulder injury.
Coach Frank Vogel said the Suns are eager to return to action after losing 111-99 to the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday. Phoenix struggled to keep pace in the second half and was outscored 31-13 in the fourth quarter.
“I felt like our execution was better. Shots just didn’t fall,” Vogel said. “Brad’s battling through his back injury and trying to get his legs under him. KD has been carrying a heavy load for us all season. Played every game and pretty big minutes.”
Durant has averaged 27.2 points in 43 career games against Minnesota, which lost a Western Conference first-round playoff series to the Denver Nuggets last season.
Edwards, the reigning Western Conference player of the week, said the postseason loss has motivated the Wolves early this season.
“I don’t think we’re too high or too low,” Edwards said. “We’re just right here because we know how it feels to lose. I don’t think we want to go back there. It’s just coming out playing hard every night.”
The Wolves boast the league’s best defensive rating (102.1), but they will be tested by the trio of Durant, Booker and Beal. Minnesota also will need to consider Suns backup center Drew Eubanks in its preparation.
The 6-foot-10 Eubanks is shooting 63 percent from the field this season. He scored a season-high 15 points off the bench in the Sunday loss to Oklahoma City.
“He’s always playing with high energy and he lifts us up,” Vogel said. “Sometimes he’s able to put up some scoring numbers like he did and put the ball in the basket. But his screening, rebounding and defense is his biggest role on this team.”
–Field Level Media
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