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Sunday could not have gone any worse for the Timberwolves.

They entered the day with a chance at the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with a little help, and they were at least guaranteed the No. 2 seed with a win. They also had a chance to show that their first two meetings this season against the Phoenix Suns were not indicative of a bad matchup, that should they face the Suns in the playoffs, the Wolves could handle them.

Then the Wolves went out and lost 125-106, a result that dropped them to the No. 3 seed thanks to Denver and Oklahoma City both winning, while their reward for the second-best regular season in team history (56-26) is to face these same Suns who have now waxed them three times this season.

Phoenix has led by double digits for the entire second half of each matchup. The Wolves began the night with a disastrous 19 turnovers in the first half and never got closer than 10 points from there.

Anthony Edwards had only 13 points on seven shot attempts to go with five turnovers, while Karl-Anthony Towns had only 10 points on 3-for-8 shooting in his second game back from left meniscus surgery. Towns' slow re-acclimation and how helpless the Wolves have looked against Phoenix have put doubt in the Wolves' chances to move past the first round of a playoff series for the first time since 2004. Even if the team was professing outward confidence after the game.

"It's honestly the belief in ourselves that we had all year," said guard Mike Conley, who scored 17 points. "It has to stick out. We're a team that we haven't looked across the court and thought we're not better than another team. I think in every game, we feel like we can beat that opponent, and this is no different."

Final NBA regular-season standings

The Wolves looked nowhere close to competing with the Suns on Sunday after faltering to a 44-22 deficit in the first quarter thanks to 11 turnovers. Phoenix's starting lineup appears to present matchup problems for the Wolves, who were using Towns to guard Grayson Allen, who had 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting.

"We've got a lot to look at, for sure. A lot to get right," coach Chris Finch said. "So that's good for us. A lot of things we have to have an answer for when we get back out on the floor this week."

Bradley Beal finished with 36 points to lead the Suns, while Devin Booker had 23 and Kevin Durant added 15. Beal said the Suns are reading nothing into their success against the Wolves this season.

"That means nothing, honestly," Beal said. "Yeah, we want to win every game in the regular season we possibly can, but that's still a good team over there. We can't just look at the numbers or boxscores and think that we can come out and just run through the series."

BOXSCORE: Phoenix 125, Wolves 106

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Towns tried to put as optimistic a face on Sunday's debacle as he could by saying it was actually a good thing the Wolves were playing the opponent they had the most difficulty with all season in the first round.

"It's going to make us better," Towns said. "It's going to test our mental fortitude, and it's going to test our discipline. Those are going to be things that, if we get past Round 1, we're going to need those types of things if we expect to be a championship team."

There's a lot to figure out for Game 1, which takes place Saturday at Target Center. Aside from the defensive matchups, can the Wolves play Towns a full complement of minutes in the postseason? Can they get Edwards reignited against a Phoenix team that constantly doubles him and has held him to 14.3 points per game this season?

"They won three games in the regular season. Regular season over with now," Edwards said. "We got the postseason, so we'll be ready to go."

They didn't look like it Sunday.


The Timberwolves earned the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference and face Phoenix in a playoff series, with Game 1 starting Saturday. But the Suns, on the strength of fast starts, swept the three-game regular-season series.

Suns 133, Wolves 115 (Nov. 15): Wolves kept pace for most of the first quarter but trailed 76-54 at the half.

Suns 97, Wolves 87 (April 5): Phoenix led 32-20 after the first. Grayson Allen scored 23 points, Kevin Durant 22.

Suns 125, Wolves 106 (Sunday): Suns dominated at the start, leading 44-22 after one quarter.