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Five lessons from the Suns’ poor Game 1 loss to the Timberwolves

Devin Booker of the Suns struggled to look like the playoff performer he was, and Anthony Edwards of the T-Wolves took advantage.

Devin Booker’s night off was the story behind the Phoenix Suns’ 120-95 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 1 of the Western Conference first round. Booker, the Suns’ franchise player, finished with 18 points but struggled to shoot for most of the game against the Timberwolves.

“We all just have to adjust to the playoffs, the physicality,” Booker said said, according to The Arizona Republic. “They are overly physical with me and I got three early fouls and went to the bench. I try to find a rhythm from there.”

Booker started 3-for-11 and forced shots in Phoenix’s offense, which revolved around Kevin Durant for most of the first quarter. Durant’s 11 points helped the Suns take a first-quarter lead, but they didn’t respond well.

The Suns cut a 10-point Timberwolves halftime lead to 71-67, but Phoenix surrendered a 21-5 run to end the third quarter and were out of the game.

Here are five takeaways.

Credit: Jesse Johnson – USA TODAY Sports

Devin Booker, the playoff scoring leader last season, is shooting poorly

Booker averaged 33.7 points with Durant alongside him in the playoffs last year. Booker told ClutchPoints that another season with Durant would help during times of on-court conflict from the Sun’s opposition.

“We’ve had adversity this season, we’ve had ups and downs, we’ve been through a lot,” Booker said. “So hopefully it’s all out of the way, and once we’ve been through a tough time, we’ve already kind of been through it.”

The Suns are following a series with Durant on the team for the third time. Phoenix lost its first game against the LA Clippers in the 2023 first round before winning four in a row. Booker was great, averaging a whopping 40 points while shooting 61 percent from the field in the series.

In contrast, the Booker on the floor Saturday was a terrible version of a player he has relied on heavily throughout his career in Phoenix. Booker, who was expected to be a playoff riser, watched his shooting guard counterpart, Anthony Edwards, torch him and his team. Edwards is someone who wants to lead the generation of NBA stars after Durant, LeBron James and Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors.

“I just think he missed some tough ones, some easy ones that he normally makes,” Durant said. via PHNX Sports. “I think he could be more aggressive and take more shots in the first half.

“I’m not worried about Book, I think he’ll come out here and have a great Game 2.”

Edwards looked like the best player on the floor against a Suns team with Durant, Booker and guard Bradley Beal, who should be a missing piece on the road to a championship.

Kevin Durant’s sharp shooting isn’t enough

The 35-year-old Durant said when he was introduced as Sun that he wanted to win in Phoenix. As someone looking to cement himself as one of the best players ever, Durant did his part Saturday with 31 points on 11-of-17 shooting.

Durant was tied with Booker at 27.1 points per game this regular season. He’s playing at an elite level, but the Suns’ offensive coaching, which is expected to be planned by head coach Kevin Young and coach Frank Vogel, doesn’t make Durant a real threat at times.

Instead of relying on Durant, the Suns avoided him. Booker’s 11 shots were rushed and Durant, who exposed the matchups of the Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, had to watch as Phoenix saw a first-quarter lead disappear in a close third.

Credit: Jesse Johnson – USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Edwards shocks mentor with trash talk and takeover

Edwards said he was impressed watching Durant, his favorite player.

“At one point I thought, ‘Damn, he’s nice,’” Edwards saidvia Dane Moore.

Durant smiled as Edwards barked at him in the zone during an 18-point period in the third quarter. The future face of the Western Conference, along with Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson, knew he was in a zone.

The 6-foot-2 Edwards is someone who will torch Phoenix if he isn’t accounted for. The Suns, who also gave Booker problems in the second half, struggled to capitalize as Edwards committed two fouls in the first quarter. Phoenix also forced two fouls on Minnesota’s top perimeter defender, Jaden McDaniels, in the second quarter and didn’t go on a run like the Timberwolves.

Vogel has been slow to make the necessary changes at the center. Phoenix traded Deandre Ayton for Jusuf Nurkic, an excellent box-out, aggressive rebounder. However, Nurkic is not a threat when finishing lobs on pick-and-roll sets, and his finishing is poor around the basket. According to Cleaning the Glass, Nurkic ranks in the 1.3 and 0.5 percentiles in finishing talent and rim shot making, respectively.

Drew Eubanks has been consistently negative on the court and failed to record two rebounds. The Suns were out-bound 52 to 28, and Nurkic and Eubanks combined for just five boards.

Phoenix was stuck in a game it had to play with much quicker intentions. The Suns made 13 fewer shots (88 to 75) than Minnesota, which ranks No. 29 in field goals (85) per game. The Timberwolves, along with their rebounding, dominated Phoenix in points in the paint (52 to 34), second chance points (20 to 6) and even had a 13-10 edge in fastbreak points, which can’t be a theme in the series if Phoenix is. goes forward.

Grayson Allen is ineffective and suffers a right ankle injury

Allen, fresh off his $70 million contract deal, struggled Saturday. He didn’t score and was just 0-of-3 from 3-point range.

Allen, with 4:44 left in the third quarter, collided with Karl-Anthony Towns and had to leave the game. His X-rays were negative, Vogel said.

The 6-foot-1 guard was essential to the Suns’ offensive potential with Booker, Beal and Durant. Allen led the NBA in 3-point percentage (46.1) in the regular season and grabbed the fifth starting spot when it was up in the air early in the season. His status for Game 2 is unclear.

Suns forced to respond

Phoenix, if it wins Game 2, will be in a better position to shake off a blowout win over Minnesota, which had not defeated it in three regular-season meetings.

The Suns’ core in those games was shooting thanks to chasing down opponents who simply couldn’t guard them. Phoenix built leads of 23, 28 and 24 points in its three wins over the Timberwolves, but it was unable to beat the team it dominated this month, including a 120-105 victory in Minnesota on Sunday.

Durant is expected to be a player who can lead the Suns to a place they have never been before. But all the pressure will now fall on Booker, who some consider the team’s best player. However, he must show that he can lead a team to a championship to gain the respect of national viewers.