Young Phoenix topples Wolves
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- With the youngest roster and the best record in the league, the Phoenix Suns are looking forward to many more challenges like this as the season moves on.
On Tuesday night, they passed an important test in holding off the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Amare Stoudemire scored 34 points before his ejection to help the Suns overcome Kevin Garnett's franchise-record 47 points and beat the skidding Timberwolves 122-115.
"It's important for us to beat some of the more experienced teams around the league," point guard Steve Nash said, "and learn some lessons and continue to grow."
Minnesota trailed by 19 midway through the fourth quarter before rallying within five with 68 seconds left, but the Timberwolves -- an early favorite in the Western Conference -- lost for the seventh time in 10 games and fell to 16-13.
Shawn Marion added 28 points, Nash put up 20 points and 16 assists.
"That was probably the most exciting game we've played this year," said Stoudemire, who used several soaring dunks to shoot 15-for-19 and follow up Sunday's career-high 50-point performance against Portland.
Sam Cassell scored 24 points for Minnesota, and Wally Szczerbiak finished with 20 points.
The game got a little out of hand toward the end. A frustrated Garnett drew a technical foul for talking trash with Steven Hunter, and Stoudemire picked up his first technical a few minutes later.
"Everyone's energy was up, so I have to be more careful," said Stoudemire, who claimed Garnett was hooking his waist while playing defense in the post.
Fouled hard by Latrell Sprewell on a dunk with 5:09 remaining, Stoudemire tossed the ball at Sprewell -- who returned the favor. Both players were given technicals, meaning an automatic ejection for Stoudemire with Phoenix leading 116-100.
That woke Minnesota up. Szczerbiak's 3-pointer capped a 10-0 spurt and cut it to 116-110 with 2:09 left, and his three-point play with 1:08 remaining pulled the Wolves to 118-113.
Still down by five, Garnett missed a 3-pointer with about 30 seconds on the clock, and Marion got a quick dunk at the other end to seal it.
"We got fired up," Garnett said. "We sort of took the game by the horns. We've got to start the games like that. We've got to start with that fury and some of the fire."
Quentin Richardson scored 16 points, and Joe Johnson had 11 for Phoenix (27-4), which owns the NBA's best scoring average -- more than 109 points per game -- and shot 70 percent in a 38-point first quarter.
The Suns aren't just fast -- they can jump out of the gym, too. None of the Wolves' rebounds or short shots came easy, because somebody in a purple jersey was almost always up in the air with them.
Early in the fourth quarter, Eddie Griffin had his shot blocked in the lane three straight times -- first by Stoudemire and then twice more by Hunter. Marion praised Hunter's help off the bench in guarding Garnett, who had to work hard for that career-high 47.
"It was what it was for the crowd, but you know we still lost and defending our home is something we take a lot of pride in," Garnett said.
The Wolves did a lot of lobbying for fouls that referee Steve Javie and his crew wouldn't give them, but their inconsistent perimeter defense again proved to be the biggest problem.
"That's been our Achilles' heel," coach Flip Saunders said.