Timberwolves On Brink of Stunning First Round Sweep Over Suns

Flynn Rey | Last Updated : April 29, 2024

The NBA playoffs are known for their drama, intensity and unexpected twists. But few could have predicted the situation the Phoenix Suns currently find themselves in against the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

Heading into the first-round Western Conference matchup as the #6 seed, the Suns were favored over the #3 seed Timberwolves thanks to their championship pedigree and star power with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. But through three games, it has been all Minnesota.

The Timberwolves have won three straight by double digits to take a commanding 3-0 series lead. They are now just one win away from completing an improbable sweep over one of the league’s most talented rosters after a 126-109 Game 3 blowout victory on Friday night in Minnesota.

“We’re playing with supreme confidence right now,” said Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert after the Game 3 win. “Our depth, our chemistry, our commitment on both ends – it’s all clicking at the highest level.”

Gobert has been a force in the series, bullying the smaller Suns frontcourt by averaging 17 points and 13 rebounds per game so far. He has given Minnesota a clear advantage on the interior that Phoenix has struggled to solve.

But he’s had plenty of help from his supporting cast. Seven Timberwolves players are averaging double-digit points, led by 25-year-old rising star Anthony Edwards at 28 ppg. The balanced, democratic scoring attack has overwhelmed the Suns and negated their star power.

Phoenix’s Big Three Struggling

Speaking of that star power – or lack thereof so far in this series – Durant, Booker and Beal have failed to produce at their usual levels against the swarming Minnesota defense.

Durant is averaging just 22.7 points per game in the first three games, a steep drop from his 27.1 ppg in the regular season. Booker has been even more disappointing, managing just 17.7 ppg after scoring 27.1 ppg during the year.

Bradley Beal led the Suns with 28 points in Game 3 but had scored just 27 total points in the first two games combined. Role players like Grayson Allen have also been non-factors, with the sharpshooter missing Game 3 due to injury.

The result is that one of the NBA’s highest scoring offenses has been completely stagnant, scoring less than 100 points per game after pouring in 116.2 ppg in the regular season.

“They’re making everything tough on us,” Durant said. “We’re getting good shots, just not making them. And they are knocking down everything on the other end.”

Suns Need Comeback for the Ages

As daunting as their 3-0 deficit appears, the Suns can take solace in knowing that teams trailing by that margin in a best-of-seven series have pulled off the comeback a handful of times before. Most recently, the Denver Nuggets accomplished the feat against the Utah Jazz just two years ago in the 2022 playoffs.

But the odds are still extremely long. Since the NBA playoffs went to a best-of-seven format in 2003, only 14 teams out of 165 have ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series. That’s less than a 9% chance of a successful comeback.

Beyond the simple numbers deficit they face, the Suns also have to overcome a mental hurdle after being so thoroughly outplayed and outworked through the first three games of the series.

“We’ve got to get our fight back, our swagger back,” said Phoenix head coach Monty Williams. “Minnesota has had their way with us. We have to find a way to get our spirit back and regain our confidence against these guys.”

A big part of that could come down to getting more production from the supporting cast around the Big Three stars. Grayson Allen is listed as questionable for Game 4 after missing Game 3, and his return could provide a needed spark.

The Suns may also want to get more minutes for talented young players like Cam Johnson and Josh Okogie, who have played limited roles so far but could inject some new energy and life into the lineup.

Regardless of what adjustments the Suns make, the reality is this may simply be a talent and chemistry mismatch with the deep, defensive-minded Timberwolves. Minnesota could simply be the better team.

Overcoming Minnesota’s Depth and Momentum

Beyond their array of scoring threats and bruising interior tandem of Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns, the Timberwolves have shown to be a connected, focused defensive unit – something the Suns have struggled with at times.

Minnesota has put together an impressive run through the first three games, outscoring Phoenix by 16 points in the third quarter alone during Game 3 as they blew the contest wide open. They are playing with supreme confidence, ball movement, and activity on both ends.

“We’re making the right play every time down on offense, and we’re flying around and making them feel us on defense,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “This group really has that killer instinct right now.”

Trying to overcome that type of cohesion, defensive intensity and overall momentum won’t be easy for the Suns. As talented as Durant, Booker and company are, they’ve looked static and a step behind the energetic Timberwolves so far.

They will have to find a way to match that intensity and activity level starting with Game 4 at home to avoid the embarrassment of a first round sweep. Because while they’re still technically alive, the hole Phoenix finds itself in already appears to be getting too deep to escape.

Sign Up For Our Daily Dose Of Hot News