Hill, Suns pull away from weary Minnesota 104-95
By BOB BAUM
PHOENIX (AP) Phoenix's old-timer injected the necessary energy for the Suns, and the weary Minnesota Timberwolves faded away at the finish.
The result was a 104-95 Phoenix victory Thursday night, the ninth consecutive time the Suns have beaten Minnesota.
Grant Hill, at 39 the NBA's second-oldest player by one day behind Kurt Thomas, scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half.
"Grant's so tough and plays with so much energy and passion and leadership, let alone his formidable skill at both ends of the floor," teammate Steve Nash said. "He's a beauty and we needed every bit of him tonight."
Nash, no spring chicken himself at 38, had 13 points, matched his season high with 17 assists and led the team in rebounding with eight. Marcin Gortat added 17 points. It was the first time Minnesota's Ricky Rubio had played against Nash.
"He knows how to play, he's smart and like I said, he's one of the best ever," Rubio said. "He knows how to control the game and he passes very well, which option he has to find for the team and he just runs it and does it."
Six players reached double figures for the Suns in their first game since the All-Star break.
Kevin Love, who sat out the Timberwolves' 104-85 loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Wednesday night because of flulike symptoms, scored 23 on 8-of-25 shooting. Luke Ridnour scored 15 for the Timberwolves, who were playing for the third time in as many nights.
"It just got out of control and the wheels came off," Love said. "Third game in three nights for all these guys and for me being sick, I think we had tired legs down the stretch and it caught up to us."
Minnesota was without Jose Barea, who strained his right calf against the Lakers.
All five starters reached double figures for the Timberwolves, who shot 50 percent (21 of 42) in the first half but 29 percent (13 of 44) in the second. Love was 3 of 13 in the second half, 1 of 6 in the fourth quarter. Minnesota made one of 13 3-pointers. The Suns shot 53 percent.
Hill made four of five shots in a 10-point third quarter to lead the Suns' comeback.
"They were just coming my way," he said. "I had a couple of touches and go to the basket, hit some in the post, off the dribble, transition. I started feeling pretty good and the guys were finding me."
The Timberwolves took the lead late in the first half and stayed ahead until a 13-2 run by the Suns late in the third quarter.
Love's 3-pointer, the first by either team and the only one of the game for the Timberwolves, put Minnesota ahead 70-64 with 5:06 to play in the quarter.
Frye's 3 ignited the 13-3 Suns' surge. Nikola Pekovic's rebound basket made it 72-67, then Phoenix scored the next 10. Gortat blocked Derrick Williams' shot, and Brown's emphatic breakaway dunk put the Suns ahead for good 73-72 with 2:02 left in the third. Dudley's 16-footer and a layup by Markieff Morris gave Phoenix a 77-72 lead before a pair of free throws by Ridnour made 77-74 entering the fourth quarter.
The Timberwolves cut the lead to two twice, the last time at 81-79 when Williams made one of two free throws with 9:01 to play. The Suns followed with a 9-0 run. Hill's three-point play on a layup after a Minnesota turnover gave Phoenix a 90-79 lead with 6:31 left. Ricky Rubio's two free throws made it 93-87 with 3:48 to go. But Nash made a 3-pointer, then Gortat's layup put the Suns ahead 98-87 with 2:56 to go and the Timberwolves never got closer than seven again.
With Love on the bench, Minnesota broke a 31-31 tie with a 13-3 run to go up 44-34 on two free throws by Pekovic with 3:44 left in the first half. The Suns cut that lead in half to trail 51-46 at the break.
Notes: Minnesota last beat Phoenix on Jan. 16, 2009. It's the Suns' second-longest active streak behind its 10 straight over Washington. ... Phoenix and Miami were the only teams that had not played since the All-Star break going into Thursday night. ... The teams missed their first 10 3-point attempts (three by Phoenix and seven by Minnesota) before Love made one with 5:06 left in the third quarter. ... Minnesota is the only team to play three consecutive nights coming out of the All-Star break.
Updated March 2, 2012