The Suns started their second exhibition season on Friday night the same way they started the first one back in October: with a loss at home.
The Suns (22-47) were eliminated from the playoffs officially earlier this week, though — for practical purposes — they were out of contention in January.
So their 93-80 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at America West Arena didn't mean much more than that preseason loss to the New Jersey Nets. Losing at home is most familiar. They've lost five straight at home.
More significant, they dropped to 14-21 at home, assuring the first home losing season since their expansion season of 1968-69, when they were 11-26.
By contrast, the Suns had a 30-11 home record last season. They don't appear to be an entirely happy bunch, either.
Amare Stoudemire, who played as poorly as he has this season, left the locker room quickly afterward without speaking with reporters. Perhaps he was miffed at being benched for a stretch of 4:18 late in the third quarter and early in the final quarter when the Timberwolves pulled away.
At the end of three quarters, when the Suns trailed only 64-60, Stoudemire had shot 3-for-11 and had five turnovers.
"He was laboring, and he wasn't playing well," said Suns coach Mike D'Antoni.
Still, Stoudemire played 39 minutes. He put up some stats late and finished with 15 points and eight boards.
This game was odd in that the Suns played solid defense — "good enough to be up by 15 points in the first half," D'Antoni said — but couldn't put the ball in the basket.
This was so even though D'Antoni started a small, offensive-oriented lineup, the team's 23rd starting unit this season: Stoudemire played in the middle, flanked by Shawn Marion and Joe Johnson at forward, with Leandro Barbosa and Casey Jacobsen at guard.
But the Suns got only five points from Jacobsen and little from their bench except five rebounds from Antonio McDyess.
"One reason we played better defense is that we played two veterans off the bench (McDyess and Howard Eisley)," D'Antoni said.
But, "Our offense went all to heck.
"There wasn't a lot of ball movement. Guys held the ball."
Jake Voskuhl sat out his second straight game with a sore left foot. He's doubtful for tonight's game vs. Milwaukee. Kevin Garnett, the favorite to win the Most Valuable Player award, had 17 points, 20 rebounds and six assists for the Timberwolves (47-22). Wally Szczerbiak scored 24.
Marion is believed to be among the candidates for at least one of the three openings on the U.S. Olympic basketball team this summer. The USA Olympic committee isn't expected to meet again until middle to late April, and the final roster is expected to be set by May. USA Today reported that Seattle guard Ray Allen isn't expected to play due to his pending marriage and fiancée giving birth while Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant could be in the midst of a sexual assault trial.
Marion said he'd "for sure" accept an invitation, calling it "a great opportunity."
The small forward represented the United States in international play in 2001 and '02, then took a break last summer.
There are still a few upper-level seats available for tonight's game vs. Milwaukee, which features the Charles Barkley ceremonies. Friday's game was called a sellout, the season's fourth. . . . Barkley sat on the front-row Friday night, alongside Hall of Famer Bill Russell. . . . Johnson has averaged 42.7 minutes, most in the NBA, since the Suns made their big trade with the New York Knicks on Jan. 5. Overall, Johnson ranks No. 9 in the league with 39.8 minutes per game. He has played 40-plus minutes in 22 straight games.
Johnson said he has no problem with the workload. "I'm young. I'm just 22."