Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 3/23/13
PHOENIX Thanks to the New Orleans Hornets, Minnesota Timberwolves and themselves, the Phoenix Suns once again are in sole possession of the worst record in the NBAs Western Conference. The Hornets spent Friday night knocking off the Memphis Grizzlies, enabling the Suns to climb into fourth-place tie for Ping-Pong position related to the draft lottery. The shorter-handed Suns did their part by losing to the T-wolves (24-43), who ended a nine-game road losing streak with a 117-86 victory at US Airways Center. Two nights after 80 percent of Phoenixs second unit turned in a clunker during a home loss to the Washington Wizards, the Suns achieved defeat through more of a total team effort. Although the Suns werent exactly on fire early, they were within five at 17-12 when Minnesota unleashed a zone defense at 5:38 of the first quarter. By the time the second quarter began, the Suns getting a bit sidetracked by scruffy ball and player movement were down, 31-18. It also should be noted the Suns were only down by a deuce when acting center Luis Scola was awarded his second personal foul with about eight minutes to go in the opening quarter. Scola sat down for the rest of the period and returned to start the second with Phoenix down by 13. In securing their official elimination from the 2013 playoffs, the Suns shot 37.9 percent from the field up almost 5 percent from Wednesday and permitted the T-wolves to make shots at a 53 percent rate. Point guard Goran Dragic (13 points, 10 assists) and Scola (17 points, 12 rebounds) battled their way to double-doubles. Here are some additional takeaways regarding the Suns, who now sit at 23-47 and tied with the Detroit Pistons for the leagues fourth-worst winning percentage. WE HOPE WES WASNT CRAVIN REVENGE Wes Johnson, whos been giving the Suns 12.9 points per game since moving into the starting lineup, didnt exactly provide his former team with a how-do-you-like-me-now moment. Johnson, selected by the T-wolves with the fourth pick in the 2010 draft and traded to the Suns last summer, missed 10 of 12 shots against his old team and finished with 7 points. Working at shooting guard, the 6-foot-7 Johnson was matched against 6-2 Luke Ridnour in Minnesotas double-point-guard (with Ricky Rubio) alignment, but was unable to do much positive work in the Suns posting-up game plan. To the good, Johnson who typically roams the perimeter hunting 3s did trot out a couple of first-quarter spin moves toward the rim, but didnt finish either play with a basket. Despite Fridays overall setback, Johnson still checks in as one Suns player that has flourished (in relative terms) recently. Confidence, is the first word interim coach Lindsey Hunter used to describe the improvement. Just giving him the ability to out and make mistakes and go out and grow. And just play without worrying about taking a bad shot or making a mistake -- just go out and play. I think thats meant the world to him, by showing confidence in him. We believe he can play. Johnson, who recently said hed like to return to Phoenix next season, is on course to become a free agent this summer. Itll be interesting to see how many other teams believe he can play and how much they might invest in that belief. MARCH MADNESS FLU? Jared Dudley, who was ailing and didnt play much against the Wizards on Wednesday, missed Fridays game with a reported stomach virus. Center Jermaine ONeal, who injured his foot in the loss to Washington, also was out for the showdown with Minnesota. I guess a slight sprain or something, Hunter said. Nothing serious-serious. I think he has a touch of the stomach flu, too. With ONeal unavailable, Hamed Haddadi produced six points and eight rebounds in almost 16 minutes of court time. UPGRADING NICKNAME TO POLISH SLEDGEHAMMER Injured center Marcin Gortat, huffing and puffing around U.S. Airways Center on crutches before Fridays game, took a break to chat with reporters. Admitting that locomotion on crutches is quite the upper-body workout, Gortat said, My arms are going to be ridiculous when I get back. Speaking of ridiculous, the Suns have surrendered 111 or more points in four games since Gortat was injured on March 6. Theyre 2-7 without their starting center. SO THATS HOW IT WORKS? The Corner-series offense attempted by the Suns under former coach Alvin Gentry was on display Friday. And the display was provided by the T-wolves, whose head coach, Rick Adelman, invented it. OK, the Corner has certain elements of Pete Carrils Princeton offense and the good ol Triangle, but its still pretty much Adelmans baby. With Steve Nash gone and the Suns continuing to lack a go-to scorer, Gentry along with long-time Adelman assistant Elston Turner attempted to implement this offensive system to generate shots for whoever became open based on reaction to the defense. It didnt work very well and was scrapped when Hunter took over. Despite the absence of franchise player Kevin Love, Minnesota was able to use the Corner to help hang 76 points shooting 58 percent on Phoenix in the opening half. Four current Suns players played for Adelman (Goran Dragic and Luis Scola in Houston; Johnson and Michael Beasley in Minnesota), but the expected translation didnt happen here. IN-THE-HOUSE CATS With Chase Budinger healthy and back in the Minnesota rotation, the T-wolves now have two former University of Arizona stars contributing. The other Minnesota Cat, starting forward Derrick Williams, has knocked in 21 or more points six times since Feb. 13. Hes more confident, Adelman said of Williams, who was selected by the T-wolves with the second pick in the 2011 draft. Hes getting the minutes out on the court. Hes been shooting better Its a nightly thing in this league; you have to be consistent night in and night out. On Friday night, Williams working only 14 minutes in the rout missed both of his field-goal attempts and finished with four points and six rebounds. Budinger contributed 11 points off the bench.
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