MINNEAPOLIS - The Suns roll over the Minnesota Timberwolves about as often as, say, the Valley of the Sun endures tornado warnings, mudslides and a massive rainstorm on the same day.
But this is no ordinary Suns team. In fact, it's probably the most powerful — if not for sure the best — team in franchise history.
The Suns moved their record to an amazing 27-4 here Tuesday night at the Target Center, with a convincing 122-115 win over the Timberwolves, the group that had beaten them 13 of the past 18 games. "This is something to build on," said Steve Nash (20 points, 16 assists). "We played with more intensity than we have recently."
The Suns now are 2-0 in January, by far their season's toughest month; coach Mike D'Antoni has informally thrown out 13-4 as a goal for this month. More stunning — the Suns now are 13-2 on the road. Last season, they finished 11-30 in road games.
And with the big win, the Suns erased much of the sour taste of last week's debacle at San Antonio.
"Twenty-seven and four!" said the Suns’ Steven Hunter. He pointed to Amare Stoudemire and said, "As long as we have young Wilt Chamberlain here and Steve Nash, teams better watch out."
Though the Suns shot a healthy 54 percent, they missed enough wide-open looks that D'Antoni told them afterward, "We could have scored 150."
He wasn't kidding, the players said. The game also may have done much to settle the question, "Who is the most valuable Sun?"
Stoudemire (34 points) got ejected from the game when the Suns were holding a comfortable 116-100 lead with 5:09 left.
Suddenly the lead wasn't so comfortable, as the T-Wolves scored 10 straight points.
The T-Wolves, down 120-115, still had a prayer in the final seconds until Kevin Garnett came up short on a 3-point try.
Garnett poured in a career-high (and franchise record) 47 points. "Three more and he catches me," Stoudemire said with a grin, who had a career-high 50 Sunday night.
"We tried to limit his shots, but he's a great player," Stoudemire said.
Stoudemire's ejection was caused by two technicals, one for arguing calls that he acknowledged he might have deserved.
He maintained the second one was a misunderstanding. Stoudemire dunked the ball and was fouled by Latrell Sprewell. Stoudemire, who maintained he didn't hear the whistle, bounced the ball to Sprewell so he could inbound the ball.
"I didn't mean to throw it at him. . .Then he threw it back at me and hit my arm, and then he came at me. It kind of caught me off guard."
Both players earned "Ts," which meant Stoudemire headed for an early shower.
Despite all this, and chirping by the talkative T-Wolves (Garnett drew a technical for jawing at Hunter), "I thought it entertaining and fun," Stoudemire said.
Unlike last month's loss to the T-Wolves in Arizona, the Suns solved their variety of defenses and limited their offensive rebounds to 12.
Also, "We quit running (in the game) at home," D'Antoni said. "We went away from our identity."
COACH OF MONTH
The latest of a growing pile of awards for the Suns this season went to D'Antoni, who was named the Western Conference's coach of the month for December. D'Antoni guided the Suns to a 13-2 record, including 11 straight wins from Dec. 5-26, a feat that tied the second-longest win streak in franchise history. In so doing, the Suns became the only team in NBA history to post a double-digit win streak after losing 50 or more games the previous season (29-53).
"It happened because we had a lot of players playing well." D'Antoni said. "They took me to 13-2.
"That's the reason it happened, not because I got smarter all of a sudden."
The honor doesn't guarantee job security. Two years ago, Frank Johnson won the honor for December. He was fired less than a year later. Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas beat out Stoudemire for the West's player of the month even though Stoudemire had better stats.
THOUGHTS ON 'Z'
His physical toughness and passion for the game were questioned, though his offensive skill was not.
Leave it to the Golden State Warriors now to figure out if Zarko Cabarkapa can play in the NBA.
Because Cabarkapa, traded for two second-round draft picks Monday, is 24 years old, "He's at a point where he needs to play," D'Antoni said.
The Suns coach said such players as Quentin Richardson, Jackson Vroman and Maciej Lampe had moved ahead of Cabarkapa, picked No. 17 overall in the 2003 draft.
"The way the team is constructed, he just wasn't going to play for us," D'Antoni said.
Cabarkapa learned of the trade just before the Suns departed for Minneapolis. He climbed aboard the team bus to the airport long enough to say goodbye.
Lampe said, "I was sad" to hear of the trade. "I'm going to miss him.
“But it might be good for him."
A Minnesota fan yelled a comment about Stoudemire toward Suns coach Mike D'Antoni.
"All he can do is dunk," the fan said. D'Antoni turned and replied, "He can get 50 doing that." . .Other Suns coaches to be named coach of the month include Paul Westphal (14-0, December '92) and Cotton Fitzsimmons (11-1, December '91).