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Ayton has career-high 35 points, Suns rally past T-Wolves

Ayton has career-high 35 points, Suns rally past T-Wolves

Deandre Ayton scored a career-high 35 points and had 14 rebounds, Devin Booker had 22 of his 28 points in the second half and the Phoenix Suns surged past the trash-talking Minnesota Timberwolves 125-116 on Wednesday night.

Landry Shamet scored 10 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter to help fuel the rally and bring the NBA-leading Suns within one win — or Memphis loss — of wrapping up homecourt advantage for the entire playoffs. The Suns, 18-4 in their last 22 games and 59-14 overall, have a nine-game lead with nine games left.

Anthony Edwards scored 19 points for Minnesota, and Karl-Anthony Towns had 15 points and 11 rebounds — but only three points and three rebounds in the second half after he woke up the Suns with his trash-talking late the first.

The Timberwolves dropped 1 1/2 games behind Denver for the No. 6 seed that avoids the play-in tournament. Minnesota has its first two-game losing streak since Feb. 9-11.

Short-handed Phoenix won its sixth straight and completed its first sweep of three or more games against Minnesota in 11 seasons.

The Timberwolves had a 15-point lead in the third quarter and were still up 88-83 at the start of the fourth, but went cold and their energy was sapped.

Shamet gave the Suns their first lead at 95-94 with a pair of free throws with 8:35 to go, and the Timberwolves trailed the rest of the way.

This matchup of two of the four highest-scoring teams in the NBA — the Timberwolves are first — had the fast pace to go with it, plus plenty of postseason-style intensity.

The Suns, who have confidently maintained their comfortable margin for the NBA's best record without the playmaking and leadership of 12-time All-Star point guard Chris Paul for the last month, fell behind 15-4 early and 66-51 shortly after halftime.

The bright side to the absence of Paul, who has been making incremental progress and appears to be nearing a return, has been elevated roles and responsibilities for others like Bridges and Shamet. The Suns also are missing sixth-man Cam Johnson.

Sporting a 11-4 record since Paul broke his right thumb, the Suns never flinched against a promising team trying to make its way up with young energy, a deep offense and a dose of bravado.

BACK AND FORTH

The Timberwolves were upset by the officiating in their last game, a two-point loss at Dallas, and there were times in this one when their emotions were more productive than others.

Towns drove to the basket late in the second quarter and delivered a one-handed dunk on Jae Crowder complete with a stare-down, igniting the crowd and irritating the Suns. Just a few seconds later, a double technical foul was called on Towns and Crowder. Then Timberwolves coach Chris Finch got one, too, for his protest.

Crowder later clipped Timberwolves pest Patrick Beverley in the head to draw a Flagrant 1 foul after the video review, putting Beverley at the line after time in the first half expired.

The disciplinary whistles kept coming after halftime. Ayton drew a technical in the third quarter.

DOWN THE STRETCH

The Timberwolves will have the tiebreaker over the Nuggets, but they're facing a stiff test to secure the sixth seed. Minnesota's game at Denver on April 1 could well be the determinant.

The Nuggets have nine games left, and five of them are against teams that were 10 or more games under the .500 mark entering Wednesday. The Timberwolves have eight games remaining, five against opponents eight games or more above .500.

TIP-INS

Suns: Mikal Bridges had 16 points. ... Cam Payne, Paul's backup, returned to the lineup after missing the previous game with an illness. ... Ayton has 119 points in six career games against Minnesota.

Timberwolves: Towns passed the 11,000-point mark in the 475th game of his career. Hall of Fame member Kevin Garnett is the only other player in franchise history to reach that milestone, having done so in 575 games. ... The bench had a 55-28 scoring edge on the Suns. The Timberwolves fell to 21-10 this season when their reserves score 40-plus points.

UP NEXT

Suns: At Denver on Thursday night.

Timberwolves: Host Dallas on Friday night.

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