Sunday, May 26, 2024

Timberwolves Maul Suns in Game 3, Take Commanding Series Lead (5 Takeaways)

HomeSports NewsTimberwolves Maul Suns in Game 3, Take Commanding Series Lead (5 Takeaways)

PHOENIX – What was supposed to be a potential championship season for the Phoenix Suns is rapidly unraveling into a nightmare. The top-seeded Suns now find themselves in a 3-0 hole against the Minnesota Timberwolves after a disheartening 126-109 home loss in Game 3 on Friday night.

The raucous home crowd at Footprint Center that was anticipating popping championship bottles is instead witnessing the cruel bursting of a massive bubble of unfulfilled expectations. Boos rained down in the third quarter as the Wolves blew the game open, and chants for coach Frank Vogel’s job emerged in the fourth as any hopes of a comeback faded.

“They’re a bigger, stronger team than us,” a resigned Vogel said after the loss. “They killed us on the boards.”

While the dismay was palpable on the Phoenix side, an aura of stunned disbelief and told-you-so satisfaction surrounded the Timberwolves. Minnesota was not meant to be here, leading a team like the Suns 3-0 after being picked by many to lose this series.

But the Wolves have made a mockery of those predictions by thoroughly outplaying and outworking the larger-market, bigger-name Suns through the first three games. Their swarming defense has flummoxed Phoenix’s star-studded offensive trio of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. And they have negated the Suns’ lack of size by pounding them on the glass, outrebounding them 50-28 in Game 3.

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“We knew offensively it would be something of a challenge for us entering the season,” said Wolves coach Chris Finch, “but we were more advanced on the defensive side. That’s how we would win games.”

Minnesota has indeed enforced its defensive will in the series. But it’s the continued brilliant play of Anthony Edwards that has put the Wolves on the cusp of one of the most shocking first-round upsets in recent playoff history.

The high-flying, larger-than-life Edwards was at his supernova best in Game 3, pouring in 36 points on an array of soaring drives, transition buckets and momentum-seizing shots to demoralize the Suns. With Phoenix making a run to get back into the game in the fourth quarter, Edwards simply took over, scoring 18 points in the final period to slam the door.

“They have no answer for him, no resistance,” said Finch. “When they double, he makes them pay by looking for teammates with his underrated passing. When they play him straight up, he punishes whoever’s in front of him.”

The 6’4″ uber-athletic Edwards also used his size and length to contribute 9 rebounds, further exploiting Phoenix’s lack of size and physicality on the interior. At just 21 years old, Edwards is blossoming into a genuine superstar on the playoff stage and taking the proverbial torch from Durant, the declining former MVP who may be being passed by a new generation of stars.

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“He’s not accepting the torch from Durant — he’s snatching it,” said Finch.

While Durant’s brilliant career may slowly be winding down, the opposite is true for the up-and-coming Timberwolves, who are announcing themselves as legitimate title contenders with their successive blowout wins over the preseason favorites. Minnesota’s blend of suffocating defense, impressive physicality, remarkable offensive balance, and the ascendant phenomenon of Edwards has them very much looking the part.

“After three games in the first round — the last two captured emphatically, and all three by double digits — maybe it’s time to elevate the Wolves in that company,” said one admiring observer.

Phoenix meanwhile is left trying to rebottle the busted bubble of its championship dreams. The Suns boldly went all-in this season by trading for the superstar trio of Durant, Booker and Beal and taking on immense financial commitments in pursuit of a title. But that partnership has looked disjointed and impotent against Minnesota’s stifling defense.

With the big three locked in for years to come at max money and a lack of future draft assets to replenish the roster, the Suns’ window may already be closing before it ever really opened. For Durant in particular at age 34, his chance at another ring may be passing him by as he watches upstarts like Edwards seize the spotlight.

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“As he surveys the West, he sees Minnesota, Denver and Oklahoma City as serious threats, and all three teams are either in their prime or still pushing toward it,” the observer noted grimly about Durant’s future prospects.

For now though, Durant, Booker, Beal and the Suns have a more immediate concern – trying to avoid the ultimate indignity of being swept out of the first round at home by the upstart Timberwolves. A once-promising season is circling the drain as quickly as Phoenix’s fans are draining bottles meant to celebrate a playoff run that may incredibly end in just over a week.

“They say it’s never been done before,” said a defiant Booker about the possibility of the Suns becoming the first team to rally from a 3-0 deficit. “That’s exciting.”

Whether the Suns can author that unprecedented comeback remains to be seen. But if the first three games are any indication, the future may be now for Minnesota and their new leading man Edwards, while Phoenix’s grand ambitions may soon become a reminder that the window for championship dreams can close far quicker than expected.



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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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