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NBA Playoffs Preview: Phoenix Suns Vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

The NBA playoffs are getting underway, and there are many intriguing matchups in the first round. In the Western Conference, the 3-seed Minnesota Timberwolves (56-26 record) face the 6-seed Phoenix Suns (49-33 record). As both teams aim to advance in the playoffs, they look to gain that single advantage to get over the hump.

The Timberwolves are a team with most of their talent in the frontcourt. They have the dynamic duo of Karl-Anthony Towns, and Rudy Gobert (Goh-BEAR) who has brought the Wolves success in different ways. Gobert is averaging 14.0 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. Towns averages 21.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, with shooting splits of 50.4/41.6/87.3% in the games he's played. They compliment each other really well with offensive prowess and defensive presence. The Wolves also have a young superstar in Anthony Edwards who has emerged into that role this season. He averaged 25.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 1.3 steals per game.

As a team, Minnesota is the best in the league at defensive, with a rating of 108.4. This is thanks to guys like Gobert, Kyle Anderson, and Jaden McDaniels. However, as much as defense is their strength, their offense holds them back. They rank 17th in the league in offensive rating with a rate of 114.6. This could be a disadvantage if the Wolves get caught in an offensive shootout at any point in the post-season. They provide a lot of length with their forwards and depth off the bench as well. Naz Reid comes off the bench for the Wolves and provides shooting that can put them over the edge. He averaged 13.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, with shooting splits of 47.7/41.1/73.6%. Reid is an outstanding shooting big-man, and if he is forgotten, his opponent will pay for their mistake. Minnesota separates themselves with their rim protection, defense, and pace they play with, especially in the playoffs. The regular season is when playing fast is okay, but teams generally slow down in the post-season. That will work to the Wolves favor, as they rank 23rd, with a rating of 97.79. In the playoffs, Minnesota presents a lot of challenges, but Phoenix has plenty of offensive firepower.

The Suns have their share of elite scoring in Kevin Durant, and Devin Booker. Durant is averaging 27.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and has shooting splits of 52.3/41.3/85.6%. Booker's averages are similar to Durant, with 27.1 points, 6.9 assists, and shooting splits of 49.2/36.4/88.6%. They also acquired Bradley Beal, and he's been on and off the court due to multiple injuries. Phoenix has a plethora of guard, but they lack a pure point guard. Beal can be a hybrid between a shooting guard, and a point guard, but he's more of a shooting guard. In their frontcourt they have Durant, and Jusuf Nurkić (Yusef Nur-KITSCH), who will have a tough task against Minnesota's frontcourt. One x-factor for the Suns is the shooting of Grayson Allen. He is averaging 13.5 points, shooting 49.9/46.1/87.8% splits. If Allen has a good shooting night, he can be the difference in a game for the Suns, which could decide this series.

As a team Phoenix is average, which is disappointing given the talent on this team. They rank 10th in the league in offense with a rating of 116.8, which isn't too surprising with the star power. On defense they are tied for 12th with a rating of 113.7. The Suns have some depth as well, with guys like Allen, Eric Gordon, and Royce O'Neal coming off the bench. If a starter is injured or has a bad shooting night, any of these players could make a difference. They also have the luxury of going small, and spreading the floor with so many shooters which could frustrate Minnesota. Phoenix has a tough task ahead of them with the Timberwolves and their defense. However, fans will enjoy this matchup because of the offensive vs defensive chess match that's about to ensue.

In the regular season the Suns bested the Wolves in all three matchups this season. From the matchups they've played, it's a motivator to think the Phoenix has the advantage. However, the playoffs are a different beast. If the Wolves play like the team they are designed as, they'll have the advantage in this series. On the other hand, the Suns have a ton of playoff caliber players who they trust to perform when it matters most. In what should be a 6-7 game series, there will be many things to watch for as each game commences.

The first game of the Phoenix Suns-Minnesota Timberwolves series starts on 4/20 at 12:30 PM on ESPN.


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