Suns' big 3 look to bounce back at home after frustrating Game 2 in Minnesota

Timberwolves break game open with 11-0 run in 4th quarter (1:00)

The Timberwolves score 11 straight points in the fourth quarter to take control in Game 2 vs. the Suns. (1:00)

MINNEAPOLIS -- As the last seconds ticked off the clock Tuesday, the Target Center crowd broke into a thunderous chant: "Wolves in four! Wolves in four! Wolves in four!" Those words rained down over the Phoenix Suns as they left the court following a 105-93 loss and prepared to return home in a deflating 2-0 hole during their first-round playoff series against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

It was not the scenario the Suns imagined after beating Minnesota handily in all three regular-season meetings nor was it what they envisioned after opening the campaign with championship aspirations thanks to their newly formed big three of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. But as the Suns grappled with their newfound plight, they could only blame themselves for losing their composure and in such a pronounced fashion, turning what had been a close contest in the first half into a 19-point deficit in the second half.

The Suns crumpled when the Timberwolves tightened their league-best defense, forcing turnovers that turned into points. It also didn't help when the Suns took out their frustrations on the officials, bickering about calls they felt were unfair. The frustration was palpable, and the Suns buckled beneath the weight of it.

"We've got to be better," Suns coach Frank Vogel said. "We can't let the refs distract our focus. The refs didn't beat us; the T-Wolves did. We got some bad calls, but that happens every game. It happens both ways. We have to be locked in and not let that distract our focus. When they're swarming on us and we're not getting the right stops, we can't not be organized offensively."

Frank Vogel gets technical foul for arguing with refs

Suns coach Frank Vogel voices his frustration to the referees and is given a technical foul.

"We're all trying to fight out there, and so far in this series, once it's turned to s---, we've kind of separated instead of being together," Booker said. "And that's everybody, top to bottom. It's something we've got to figure out."

After a pair of double-digit losses at Minnesota, the Suns, who are 0-14 when trailing 2-0 in a best-of-seven series, return home for Game 3 on Friday at Footprint Center.

Minnesota has only once previously held a 2-0 series lead in franchise history -- two decades ago, against the Denver Nuggets in the first round.

"We've got two days to get it right, but they're not going to stop," Beal said. "They're going to continue to be aggressive, continue to push the envelope the way they have. And we have to respond. We haven't responded yet."

One statistic was particularly evident Tuesday: points off turnovers.

The Timberwolves tallied 31 and the Suns just two.

That margin tied the largest in a playoff game over the past 25 seasons, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Suns finished with 20 turnovers to the Timberwolves' 14, a discrepancy that doesn't stand out on its own. But far too often, the Suns stalled after turning the ball over, either because they were arguing with officials or each other or they self-deflated -- or all of the above. And the Timberwolves kept converting, stretching a six-point lead entering the fourth quarter into something far more -- and fast.

The opening of the final frame proved pivotal, especially when Booker picked up his fourth foul with 9:55 remaining. He had tried to lure Karl-Anthony Towns into a foul by hooking his arm around his while driving to the rim, but the referees weren't fooled. Booker pleaded with the officials, and Vogel challenged the call, but the call stood. The crowd began chanting, "Baby Booker." Minnesota was leading 84-76, but a 12-2 run by the Wolves swiftly changed that.

"Don't count us out," Booker said. "It's a series for a reason."

It proved to be another off night for the Suns' star trio, who combined for 52 points on 18-of-45 shooting. That tied for the fourth-fewest points they've scored in 43 games when all three played, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Booker finished with 20 points and six turnovers, Beal put up 14 points on 17 shots and Durant added 18 points on 15 shots -- the first time Durant has scored fewer than 20 points in 12 playoff games with the Suns.

But much credit was owed to the Timberwolves' defense, especially that of forward Jaden McDaniels, who also scored a team high and playoff career high of 25 points.

"Their physicality tarnishes our ability to get into our sets faster," Beal said. "They do a really good job of just denying [Durant], denying [Booker], being physical with them. [Anthony Edwards] is picking me up full [court]. They're just making us work before we even get into our sets."

The Suns' woes were compounded when sharpshooting guard Grayson Allen aggravated his sprained right ankle in the third quarter. He left the game, but Vogel said X-rays were negative and that Allen would be day-to-day moving forward. Allen started after spraining his ankle in Game 1, though he scored just three points in about 17 minutes Tuesday.

After the game, Vogel pointed to the Suns' newness together, since this is the first campaign with Durant, Beal and Booker as teammates.

"We've had our bumps in the road, as you'd expect with a group that's put together in year one," he said. "It hasn't been an easy road for us."

The coach said they have to handle the Timberwolves' pressure better, stay poised and manage the heightened emotions of the playoffs.

Vogel's overall message to his team was simple: "Keep challenging each other and stay connected."

"There's a lot of love in that locker room with that team," he said. "You've got to make sure we can challenge one another, listen to one another and remain connected."

Staying connected has proved to be a season-long problem for the Suns.

"We play well when we're playing well," Booker said, "and we need to stick together once things turn bad. We've done that throughout the season."

"Something," he added, "has to be corrected."