PHOENIX – There were several indicators early in the Timberwolves' 133-115 loss to the Phoenix Suns that Wednesday wasn't going to be the Wolves' night.
Former Wolves guard Josh Okogie, a 17% three-point shooter entering the night, burned the Wolves for 3-for-3 from deep. Anthony Edwards, who has had a love-hate relationship playing on back-to-backs in his young career, started the game 1-for-5 while Phoenix forward Drew Eubanks posterized Karl-Anthony Towns on a dunk in the second quarter on Towns' 28th birthday.
A night after the Wolves had an emotional win at Golden State, the team flew into Phoenix on a tough turnaround and had almost nothing break its way in its effort to sustain a now-broken seven-game win streak.
"Just an old-fashioned butt-whooping," Edwards said.
The lack of rest, the inevitable letdown from Tuesday and the relentlessness of the schedule all likely contributed to the subpar defense the Wolves played. Phoenix shot a blistering 60% (55% from three-point range), and a defense that has held six of 11 opponents to 101 points or fewer allowed 110 through three quarters.
Devin Booker was masterful navigating in and around the Wolves defense and finished with 31 points. Kevin Durant also had 31 and the Suns got contributions up and down the lineup with six in double figures. Okogie finished with 12. Towns led the Wolves with 25 points, and his continued strong play on offense was the lone bright spot for the Wolves. Mike Conley added 14 while Edwards finished 4-for-16 and 13 points.
"We was ready to go. It just didn't go the way we wanted it to go," Edwards said. "… They shot the ball, what like 60% from the field? Only way we was beating this team tonight is if we goaltended. … If we told Rudy [Gobert] to just goaltend everything."
Some of the more veteran players in the locker room weren't just attributing Wednesday's loss to schedule luck. For Gobert, he would like to see the Wolves overcome the disadvantages the schedule was throwing their way. That's how they will become the kind of team they envision themselves being.
"We got to find the energy and the mental will power to do those things when it's a back-to-back, when we're tired," said Gobert, who had four points, eight rebounds and two blocks. "There's going to be times if you're in the playoffs and it's a Game 7 and you're tired, you got to find ways to keep doing the things that make you successful and help you win games."
The Wolves looked like they needed some additional time to get ready from the opening tip. Their defense allowed open looks all over the floor to Phoenix, which opened by hitting 12 of its first 14 shots. The Suns opened a 14-point lead even as Towns had 14 first-quarter points for the Wolves.
After a bench run cut the lead to six at the end of the first quarter, the Wolves never seriously threatened Phoenix's lead again.
"If you want to have the level of success that we want to have, we do have to come out with a little more urgency and physicality," Gobert said. "[You can say] yes, I fell asleep at 6 a.m. Yes, it was a back-to-back, coming from the West Coast and everything, but I do think there's a lot of things that we can control … and we didn't do those things in the first half."
Namely, everything on the defensive end, whether it be rotating out to shooters or containing dribble penetration.
To Conley, the Wolves planted the seeds for Wednesday's loss on Tuesday. They should have handled business better against a Golden State team that was without Stephen Curry — and then was without Draymond Green and Klay Thompson following an early scuffle that resulted in a five-game suspension for Green.
"It's a lesson in even [Tuesday] night's game," Conley said. "You have an opportunity to go in, they're out a couple guys, try to take care of that game and maybe you can rest a little bit more coming in here tonight. Instead of wasting so much energy mentally and physically like we did last night. Lesson learned."