MINNEAPOLIS - The Suns are used to overcoming a disadvantage on the boards. They outrebound opponents about as often as Minnesota beats one.
But give up 22 offensive rebounds? Good luck climbing that mountain. The Suns had 26 rebounds all night as they watched the Timberwolves keep shooting until they got it right in a 117-107 loss that takes its place among the other unnecessary debacles against second-division teams this year.
Not only had Minnesota not won back-to-back games since last Valentine’s Day (Feb. 11-14), they had lost each game after a win this season by an average of 20 points — getting trounced by New Orleans (by 34) and Houston (by 31) in the last two attempts.
“They had (17) more shots than us thanks to offensive rebounds,” a disgusted Steve Nash said. “Al Jefferson (39 points, 15 rebounds) kind of gets his way down there and a number of other guys do as well. We just can’t keep them off the glass.
“We’re going to give up offensive rebounds. But we make it up in other ways … we can give up 10 … but you can’t give up 20. You have to play out of this world to overcome that.”
CENTER OF ATTENTION
Center Amaré Stoudemire again had little luck slowing down Jefferson, but he also didn’t get much help from double teams that were supposed to be helping out.
“They go to him every time,” said Stoudemire, who had 33 points of his own and missed only two of 16 shots. “We had different strategies on how to defend him, but we didn’t execute them.
“It’s all about consistency. Some nights we’re like the best team in the league and the other nights aren’t quite the same. We have to do it on an every-game basis. It’s such a tight race in the West, (losses like this) may bite us. We have to start now and create a lead where it won’t hurt us. For now, it definitely hurts losing twice to the Timberwolves.”
Shawn Marion took only three shots and went more than three quarters without a single attempt, finishing with seven points in 33 minutes.
“That’s what happens. It wasn’t my night to get going,” Marion said. “I go out there and take what’s given to me, play defense, rebound … if I get a shot take it, if I don’t, don’t take it.”
Marion had three rebounds, one steal and was the target of one tirade by coach Mike D’Antoni late in the fourth quarter — when a double-team on Jefferson was again late after the Suns had cut a 21-point lead to 11 with five minutes left.
“That’s OK. I’m used to it,” Marion said.
HILL TAKES STEP FORWARD
Grant Hill is still feeling the loss of conditioning after losing two weeks to an appendectomy. He hit five of seven shots and managed 11 points in 22 minutes — although bodying up on defense is still painful and difficult.
“It’s getting there, but I hope it comes a little faster,” he said.
“I talked to Al Jefferson, and he had the same thing and he said that he came back in two weeks but it took him three to four weeks before he could really get back.
“He said the only reason he (came back early ) was because he was trying to get a (new) contract. If he had to do it over again, he would have taken a little longer.”
The Suns hit 11 3-pointers, the 10th straight game they have had at least nine. That’s the longest such streak in franchise history and the fifth-longest ever. Dallas has the longest streak, doing it 12 straight times (Feb. 25 to Mar. 15, 1996).
The annual Phoenix Suns Charities will host its 14th annual “Suns & Stars Gala” on March 14 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa. The event will include dinner, a silent auction and a special entertainment guest — previous performers have included musicians Earth, Wind and Fire and Seal and comedian Darryl Hammond. All the Suns players, coaches and staff and many legends will be on hand for the evening. For more information on sponsor tables or individual tickets, call the Suns at (602) 397-7767 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.