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SPORTS

Timberwolves Take 2-0 Lead on Suns Behind 25 Points and Ace Defense from Jaden McDaniels

MINNEAPOLIS  — Jaden McDaniels scored 25 points for a career best in the playoffs and spearheaded another stifling defensive performance by the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 105-93 victory over the Phoenix Suns to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round series on Tuesday night.

Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert each added 18 points to help the Timberwolves offset the smothering of Anthony Edwards by the Suns, who held the All-Star to 15 points after allowing him 33 in the opener. Edwards went 3 for 12 from the floor.

The teams head to Phoenix for Game 3 on Friday night. Minnesota has held a 2-0 series lead only one other time in franchise history, against Denver in the first round in 2004 en route to a 4-1 series victory.

Devin Booker scored 20 points, Kevin Durant added 18 and sixth man Eric Gordon had 15 for the Suns, who again failed to get their high-octane offense in gear. The big three of Booker, Durant and Bradley Beal combined to shoot 18 for 45, with McDaniels leading the list of reasons for the slump.

After building an eight-point lead in the second quarter and taking a 51-50 edge into halftime, the Suns wore down while Karl-Anthony Towns (12 points) got going after early foul trouble.

Phoenix lost starting guard Grayson Allen to an aggravated ankle sprain in the third quarter, during which the Wolves used a 12-0 run to create some breathing room. Edwards sank a 22-footer on Durant during that surge to make it 70-63, and the momentum — and the crowd noise — carried into the fourth quarter.

Conley found Gobert with a bounce pass off the pick-and-roll for an easy slam and an 84-76 lead the Wolves later extended to 19 points, before the 17-year veteran point guard swished a corner 3-pointer that electrified the arena. The “Wolves in 4!” chant popped up in the final minutes.

The Wolves used their lockdown defense to stifle two-thirds of Phoenix’s big three and a heavy dose of Edwards on the attack to deliver a 25-point win in Game 1 on Saturday.

Suns coach Frank Vogel said the 22-year-old rising star needed to see five bodies every time he had the ball, and the Suns never hesitated to send multiple defenders swarming into his space.

The Timberwolves had trouble making them pay, shooting 9 for 32 from 3-point range. The bench production that helped them dominate the opener waned. The whistles were tighter this time, leading to a costly three-foul first quarter for Towns that kept him out until halftime.

But McDaniels, Gobert and anyone else wisely attacked the basket with abandon, making sure the Wolves could use their size advantage inside.

They passed their test of maturity, too. Booker slammed his forearms into McDaniels after a stray elbow, triggering McDaniels into an ill-advised shove that drew him a technical foul. But the fiery 23-year-old recovered nicely after that.

Jusuf Nurkic (10 points, 14 rebounds) helped negate some of Gobert’s award-winning and shot-altering defense. After the Timberwolves set a franchise playoff record with a plus-24 rebounding margin, the Suns had a 41-39 edge.

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