Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 3)

Series starts 12/26

Game 1: Monday, December 26th
Game 2: Monday, February 6th
Game 3: Saturday, March 11th

Timberwolves 102

(26-36, 8-22 away)

Suns 110

(43-18, 25-9 home)

7:00 PM ET, March 11, 2006

US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

1 2 3 4 T
MIN 29 25 22 26102
PHX 28 20 30 32110

Top Performers

Min: K. Garnett 28 Pts, 10 Reb, 2 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 Blk

PHX: S. Nash 31 Pts, 2 Reb, 11 Ast

Nash scores 31 in return, leads Suns past Wolves

PHOENIX (AP) -- Steve Nash keeps building a case for his second consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player award.

Two nights after Phoenix was routed without him in the lineup, Nash tied a season high with 31 points and added 11 assists as the Suns beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 110-102 Saturday night.

"He's pretty good," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I don't know if you've noticed that."

Phoenix is 2-6 without Nash over the last two seasons, and 114-44 with him.

Nash helped the Suns win despite a big night by Minnesota's Kevin Garnett, who led the Timberwolves with 28 points and 10 rebounds. But Garnett's numbers didn't improve his mood. He blasted teammates for clowning in the dressing room after the team's fourth straight loss.

"I guess frustrating would be the right word here," Garnett told reporters after snapping at teammates. "I don't like to speak from a frustrated mind. There's no way -- we're playing one of the best teams in the league, and you're not hyped, you're not up. The atmosphere in here is like we won. (It) hurts. I try to keep things in house. There's a certain tone in here, man, and we're going to keep that. If you can't abide by that tone, you won't be here. You won't play.

"I don't sign anyone's checks, but you have to be prepared and ready to play," Garnett said. "And I don't know that as a team every night we're ready to do that. The focus is that it's got to hurt when you lose."

While Garnett stewed, Nash and the Suns celebrated his return to the lineup. Nash sprained his right ankle Monday night against New Orleans, but he said he felt no ill effects Saturday night.

"I was lucky," Nash said. "I felt great. I felt pretty confident before the game, but there was definitely still some uncertainty. As the game went on, I definitely gained confidence and didn't feel any problem with it."

Nash was in street clothes when the Suns' 11-game win streak ended Thursday night in a 117-83 loss to San Antonio, Phoenix's worst home loss of the year. Backup point guard Leandro Barbosa, who had a groin injury, also missed the game. Both players returned Saturday night.

As if to underscore his importance to the Suns, Nash scored Phoenix's first six points. He scored, drew a foul on Marcus Banks and made the free throw. Then he hit from the beyond the arc.

The Timberwolves decided to stick with the Suns' shooters and make Nash beat them off the dribble, which is precisely what he did.

"They were more or less saying, 'Hey, we're going to stay on the shooters, and let's see if you can beat our guy,' " D'Antoni said. "He'll do that. He just reads the situation so well, and he takes what they give him."

Nash had a hand in 17 of the Suns' 28 first-quarter points. Phoenix trailed 54-48 at halftime, but Nash scored seven points in the first 3:29 of the third quarter to help the Suns pull even at 61.

Nash either scored or assisted on 25 of the Suns' 30 points in the third quarter, when they outscored the Timberwolves 30-22 to take a 78-76 lead into the final period.

The Timberwolves have seen this before. Nash also burned them for 31 points here Feb. 6.

"(Nash) is not the quickest guy, but he knows how to play, knows how to use his body, knows how to find guys," Minnesota guard Ricky Davis said.

With Nash leading the way, the Suns avoided back-to-back home losses for the first time since they opened the season with three straight defeats in U.S. Airways Center.

Game notes

Phoenix forward Amare Stoudemire, who has yet to play after undergoing offseason knee surgery, could return to the lineup soon, coach Mike D'Antoni said. Stoudemire has been participating in 5-on-5 drills but has not set a date for his return. "We're just kind of waiting on him now, to where he feels psychologically ready to play," D'Antoni said before the game. "I think it's pretty close."... Forward Brian Grant, who also had knee surgery, is also close to returning, D'Antoni said. ...The Suns signed guard Andre Barrett to a second 10-day contract Saturday. He averaged 4.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists in his first two appearances. ...The Suns announced that president and chief operating officer Rick Welts will remain in his position through the 2008-09 season.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 102 110
FGM-FGA 41-87 (.471) 42-79 (.532)
3PM-3PA 4-11 (.364) 11-19 (.579)
FTM-FTA 16-17 (.941) 15-20 (.750)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 17-38 12-36
Assists 13 16
Turnovers 16 16
Steals 8 4
Blocks 3 4
Fast Break Points 7 7
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 24 (0/0) 18 (1/0)
Largest Lead 12 11

Top Performers

Kevin Garnett Garnett
Points: 28
Reb: 10
Ast: 2
Stl: 3
Blk: 1
Steve Nash Nash
Points: 31
Reb: 2
Ast: 11
Stl: 0
Blk: 0