Chip Scoggins
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The countdown clock started around 5 p.m. Sunday and expires Saturday afternoon, a protracted gap between games that must feel like an eternity in the NBA's rhythm of life.

The playoff format grants the Timberwolves five full days to prepare for the Phoenix Suns, a Monday-through-Friday workweek that is the most important time of Chris Finch's tenure as coach.

He's got a lot to figure out.

"A coach's dream, really," Finch said Wednesday of the extra prep time. "You get a chance to tear it apart and start putting it back together and come up with some answers. It feels like a football game."

In that vein, the Wolves need Finch to channel Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid's greatness in identifying matchup advantages and constructing a winning game plan.

In no particular order, Finch and his staff must decide:

Will a two-big-men lineup work against the smaller Suns?

Who does Karl-Anthony Towns guard?

How does Anthony Edwards unlock his offense against the Suns' smothering defense?

"Just figuring out what is going to be the best version of us against this team," Towns said. "We obviously haven't found that image yet with them in the regular season. No better time to figure it out than in the postseason."

This is a complicated matchup for the Wolves. The ultimate test case for the organization's grand experiment in trading for 7-1 Rudy Gobert to pair with 7-foot Towns in a 180-degree pivot from the modern NBA.

The Suns, seeded sixth, dominated all three meetings against the Wolves, the third seed, during the regular season, leading each game by 20-plus points at some point. A noncompetitive loss to the Suns in Sunday's 125-106 regular-season finale sent Finch into the laboratory in search of answers.

The Wolves had the NBA's best defensive rating this season. Two of their worst defensive performances came against the Suns.

"We've got to figure out how to take certain guys out of the game," Finch said.

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Finch refers to matchups as a puzzle, and this is a tricky one to put together. The Suns start four guard/wing players: a Big Three of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal and a deadeye shooter in Grayson Allen.

Assuming the Wolves stick with a starting lineup that includes both Towns and Gobert, that forces Towns to guard a wing, most likely Allen or Durant.

Neither matchup is ideal, thus creating a conundrum for Finch: Does he make a radical adjustment to his starting lineup by swapping Towns for a wing or double-down on the team's belief in a two-bigs lineup?

I will be shocked if Towns isn't in the starting lineup for Saturday's Game 1. He is a franchise cornerstone on a supermax contract. Bringing him off the bench is not a subtle tweak.

Wolves officials from Finch to President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly — the man who executed the blockbuster trade for Gobert — have insisted that pairing two big men can be fruitful in the postseason.

A lot of this now falls on Finch's shoulders. His acumen as a tactician will be tested to find ways to use his team's considerable size advantage as a strength, not a hindrance. Finch, 54 and the Wolves coach now for three and a half seasons, also will need to be flexible in his lineup combinations throughout games and the entire series.

If a smaller lineup is working more effectively, egos can't get in the way of the greater good.

Towns hinted at that mindset when asked if finding the "best version" of themselves includes staying with big lineup combinations.

"It can be a lot of different ways," he said. "We have a lot of versatility. There's a lot of things we can do, not only to start the game but throughout the game and change up the look of our team at any single second."

One major changeup involves Edwards, who averaged only 14.3 points in three games against Phoenix, far below is 25.9 season average. Finch noted the Suns are devoting three defenders to stop Edwards when he drives.

Finch's mission is to create movement that gets Towns more involved, which, in turn, should loosen things up for Edwards to maneuver. Getting Ant on track is paramount to winning.

Finch has had a lot of time this week to think about strategy and adjustments. The plan he comes up with will have a significant impact on the outcome of the series. It's only a bad matchup if the Wolves don't have the right answers.