Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 3/13/12
PHOENIX -- A string of recent promotional activity has escorted the Phoenix Suns through Fiesta Night, Polish Heritage Night and No Defense Monday. Unfortunately, that last one kicked off an unofficial event we can refer to as Moving Week. The intended moving involves the Suns' attempt to climb north in the Western Conference standings. Things had been rolling lately, too: By winning their previous five home games, the Suns had reached an 11th-place deadlock with the Utah Jazz. Monday's no-defense extravaganza co-starred the premise-embracing Minnesota Timberwolves but didn't go so well. While the Jazz were taking care of the Detroit Pistons, the Suns (19-22) were losing the first in a five-game week that includes four games against teams sitting ahead of them in the conference pecking order. The final was a robust 127-124 and featured a 56 percent shooting effort from the ninth-seeded T-wolves (22-21), who are obliged to finish this season without rookie point guard Ricky Rubio thanks to a torn ACL. "I don't want to take anything away from them," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said of the victors. "They played great." Well, the Suns really didn't take much of anything away from Minnesota during this battle of teams that seemed severely unequipped to deal with two All-Stars working within the contours of NBA-caliber ball screens. The T-wolves selected a method of pick-your-poison-and-roll defense that allowed Suns point guard Steve Nash to turn the corner and have as many clean looks at the rim as he desired. If we didn't know better, we would have guessed that the strategy was to hope Nash eventually tired by scoring so much. He may not have felt much fatigue, but Nash did miss two big attempts late in the game. "Both teams were just shooting the heck out of the ball," T-wolves coach Rick Adelman said, "and we finally got them to miss a couple at the end and ended up winning the game." That particular let-Nash-shoot maneuver does diminish the roll portion of the Phoenix pick-and-roll program. So does foul trouble. With the latter variable limiting Suns center Marcin Gortat to eight points in just under 20 minutes, Minnesota survived screen-roll. But the Wolves did surrender 124 points, allowed the Suns to make 52 percent of their field-goal attempts and gave up 28 points to Phoenix's Jared Dudley. For the record, Nash still managed 10 assists (and no turnovers) to go with 25 points. He made 10 of 16 shots, but those two fourth-quarter misses with the clock under 1:36 prevented the Suns from keeping pace in the hottest gunfight we've seen this season. The Suns' pick-and-roll defense was considerably more aggressive but no less ineffective. We can't be sure if the hard-hedge (or show) tactic was designed to trap T-wolves point guard Luke Ridnour or corrupt his rhythm. We do know that the two allegedly converging Suns defenders put little pressure on Ridnour, who was able to make a defense-shredding initial pass that -- thanks to tardy rotations out of the double teams -- led to easy buckets. In the first half, slow recovery enabled T-wolves center Nikola Pekovic to bag 16 of his 24 points in the paint. While working against the blacksmith-oriented low-post stylings of the 6-foot-11, 290-pound Pekovic, Gortat picked up his second foul just six minutes into the first quarter. "Pekovic really just kind of took control of the game early," Gentry said. In the second half, exploitation of the Suns' high pick-and-roll defense took the form of five 3-pointers from All-Star Kevin Love. Minnesota's power forward made 8 of 14 shots in the final two quarters, good for 23 of his game-high 30 points. The T-wolves shot 59 percent in the second half. "We just have to do a better job of understanding rotation," Gentry said. "He (Love) wants to catch and shoot ... we want to make him a facilitator. We want to make him a dribbler instead of a catch-and-shoot guy." In addition to 54 combined points from two-thirds of its starting frontcourt, Minnesota was handed 34 points from reserve forwards Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley. "I'm just trying to help this team, help the bench," said Williams, the rookie from the University of Arizona. "We've got to play defense and put up some points, too. We just do what we do every time we're out there." The "defense" thing Williams referenced didn't quite translate Monday, but Minnesota was able to make the late-game stops Phoenix failed to produce. "I think the pick-and-roll with Love and Pekovic, and how we were at one point having wings try and rotate over to Love and the bigs," Dudley said when asked to define what went awry. "He (Love) just got hot, and you have to hand it to him." It might be better to hand-in-his-face-it to him. Anyway, next up for the Suns are the aforementioned Jazz with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and a different set of defensive challenges. Maybe the promotion will turn out to be Lockdown Wednesday.
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