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Suns hold off Timberwolves

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PHOENIX — As has been their custom all season, the Phoenix Suns let a struggling team hang around on their home floor Friday.

But as has been their custom more of late, the Suns won another game.

Guard Goran Dragic scored 13 of his 21 points in the first seven minutes and guard Gerald Green led a big effort from the Phoenix bench with 19 points as the Suns won for the 12th time in their last 16 games with a 110-99 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Newcomer Brandan Wright added 11 points as the Suns’ bench outscored the Timberwolves’ reserves 52-24. The Suns have lost to Charlotte, Detroit and Orlando at US Airways Center this season and it took awhile to put away Minnesota (6-32) for the Suns’ fifth straight home win.

“They have a lot of young guys that never give up and they play hard,” Dragic said. “But we have to end these games a little bit sooner. We don’t want them to be close at the end, because you can lose those games. I think finally we are playing better at home and we have a lot of home games we can win coming up.”

Guard Eric Bledsoe had 16 points and forward Markieff Morris added 13 for the Suns, who opened the longest homestand in franchise history — eight games — with victories over Cleveland and Minnesota.

Phoenix needed a 42-point fourth quarter and 21 points off the bench from Green to pull off a 113-111 win in Minnesota on Jan. 7. He scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth that night and had 12 of his 19 in the fourth on Friday.

“We were content just exchanging baskets with them,” Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. “But we finally got some stops and Gerald hit a couple of 3-pointers and kicked the lead back up there. We would have liked to have done it earlier, but we got a lot of guys in there.”

Guard Mo Williams had a game-high 26 points to lead Minnesota. He scored a career-high 52 points on Tuesday when Minnesota snapped a 15-game losing streak with a win over the Indiana Pacers.

“They trapped me every time,” Williams said. “They had a game plan, hands high every time I touched the ball, and I just had to make plays out of it. I was able to find some shots here and there and still give us a chance to win, but they made a few more plays than we did.”

Forward Andrew Wiggins had 17 points and forward Thaddeus Young added 13 for the Timberwolves, who are 2-22 against the Western Conference.

“We hung in there,” Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. “Their physicality took over and Green did to us what he did a week ago at our place. He got things going, he made shots and he changed what was a close game.”

Dragic got the Suns off to a hot start with 13 of the team’s first 21 points, including a run of seven straight to give Phoenix a 21-17 lead.

Then Morris, coming off a career-high 35 points against Cleveland on Tuesday, took over by scoring nine consecutive points near the end of the quarter before feeding guard Isaiah Thomas for a fast-break layup with 29.9 seconds left to give Phoenix a 32-27 edge.

Williams hit 3 of 5 3-pointers in the quarter and led Minnesota with 11 points.

Bledsoe picked up his offense in the second quarter, scoring seven straight points before Green added a three-point play to give Phoenix 57-48 lead with 3:31 left in the half.

But the Timberwolves scored eight of the final 10 points of the half with guard Zach LaVine finishing off a Wiggins steal with a layup to cut the lead to 59-56 at the half.

“We had five turnovers in the last three minutes and we lost the chance to go up big there,” Dragic said.

The Suns stretched the lead to as many as 13 with a 10-1 run late in the third quarter and to 16 points in the fourth quarter. Phoenix had 16 turnovers and just 18 assists but shot 55 percent from the field.

“We need games like this and we want to win them big to get everybody rested,” Bledsoe said. “We need to keep winning and find a way to catch some teams.”

NOTES: With the recent acquisitions of F Brandan Wright and swingman Reggie Bullock, the average age of the Phoenix roster dipped to 24 years, 10 months, the fourth youngest in the league behind Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Utah. Of the 10 youngest teams in the NBA, only the Suns and Bucks have a winning record. … Minnesota had lost 14 of the last 19 meetings with Phoenix. The 37 points that G Mo Williams scored in the second half of his 52-point effort against Indiana on Tuesday night was a franchise record. Williams’ previous career high was 44 against the Suns on Feb. 11, 2009, when he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers. … The Suns are two games into an eight-game homestand, the longest in franchise history. … Minnesota has two wins against the Western Conference this year, beating the Lakers in Los Angeles and Portland at home. … Suns F Markieff Morris was 15 of 21 from the field (71.4 percent) while scoring a career-high 35 points against Cleveland on Tuesday. The last Suns player to shoot 70 percent while making at least 15 field goals was Shaquille O’Neal, who was 20 of 25 from the floor in a 45-point game against Toronto on Feb. 27, 2009.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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