Thursday marked a momentous occasion for lovable, long-haired pure point guards. The men on either end of that totem pole -- 38-year-old Steve Nash and 21-year-old Ricky Rubio -- faced one another for the first time, with Nash looking to defend his throne against an heir apparent about half his age. This time around, Nash won the match-up by a longshot. His 13 points and 17 assists vastly overshadowed a relatively quiet effort by a worn-down Rubio, and the Suns came alive in the second half to earn a 104-95 win over the Timberwolves.
The two teams entered the game in rather disparate circumstances. Minnesota faced its third game in three nights, having traveled to Phoenix after back-to-back games (a win and a loss) in Los Angeles against the Clippers and Lakers. The Wolves took the lead in the first half due to forced turnovers and inside scoring, but finally succumbed to fatigue after the break. After hitting half shots in the first two quarters, Minnesota went cold and ended up shooting just 40 percent on the night, including a dismal 1-13 from downtown.
Rubio finished with 13 points (only three of which came in the second half) and just 2 assists, while Kevin Love returned from the flu to play big minutes but score a rather inefficient 23 points on 25 shots.
Phoenix, meanwhile, took the floor for the first time since the All-Star break. They looked sloppy and out of practice in the first half, falling behind primarily because of its 11 turnovers. In the second, though, they tightened up the offense and unfurled an active interior defense to stifle the Wolves. Grant Hill led the team in scoring behind an incredibly spry 15-point third quarter, while Nash tied a season-high with 17 points and the bench (Shannon Brown and Robin Lopez, in particular) contributed to the improved second half defense and got Phoenix easy buckets in transition.
Thus, like a lot of games this week, it was a tale of two halves: a halftime twist saw the tired squad run out of steam and the rusty team finally remember how to play basketball. Oh, and this happened:
Can't remember ever seeing that one before.
Phoenix's win moved them to 15-20 on the season, while the Minnesota loss dropped them below .500 to 18-19 overall.