Timberwolves not sweating recent woes against Suns

Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert isn’t putting a lot of stock in his team’s regular-season performance against the Phoenix Suns.

The Timberwolves, who lost all three meetings with Phoenix, are eager to wipe the slate clean when they tip off a first-round Western Conference playoff series against the Suns on Saturday afternoon in Minneapolis.

Although it struggled against Phoenix, Minnesota still managed to put together its best regular season in 20 years. The Timberwolves grabbed the No. 3 seed in the West by going 56-26, their most wins since the 2003-04 campaign (58-24).

However, Gobert realizes that a first-round exit would completely spoil all of Minnesota’s hard work over the past six months.

“I’m really embracing the moment,” Gobert said. “I really believe that we have a chance. I really believe that (that) type of season that we had don’t come just like that. And some teams … don’t have the opportunity to get back together for a lot of different reasons.

“So, we have a unique opportunity, and I truly believe that everyone in this locker room is aware of that.”

The Timberwolves haven’t fared well in the playoffs as of late, though, getting bounced in the first round in each of the past two seasons. They were knocked out by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2022 before the Denver Nuggets got the best of them last year.

Minnesota hasn’t made it past the first round since 2004.

“There’s obviously a big hunger here to be able to get to the second round. It’s something we haven’t done here in Minnesota in a long time,” Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns said. “The fans deserve more, and we want more.”

If Minnesota is going to get more, it’s going to have to earn it against a Suns team that has won 13 of the past 15 meetings.

Phoenix managed to close the regular season on a high note, putting together a three-game winning streak to cap a 10-4 stretch dating back to March 20. That spurt allowed the Suns to lock down the No. 6 seed in the West — the final guaranteed playoff spot in the conference.

With Phoenix stars Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal all healthy heading into the postseason, Suns general manager James Jones likes his team’s chances of making a deep run.

“Our team is whole now,” Jones said. “You can look backwards or you can look forward, and I look forward to continuing to build the momentum that we’ve built over the last 10 games. I think we’ve started to see our team come together.”

It looked like Phoenix was going to have to deal with some personnel changes during its series with Minnesota when associate head coach Kevin Young landed a new job on Tuesday. He is headed to BYU to be its next men’s basketball coach, taking over for Mark Pope.

But Young, who joined the Suns’ staff ahead of the 2020-21 season, isn’t saying goodbye just yet.

“We’re thrilled that he’s going to be with us through the duration (of the playoffs),” Phoenix coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s going to help us compete for this championship. He’s in the fight. He’s committed to that.”

The Suns are in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row. They are coming off back-to-back second-round exits following a Finals appearance in 2021, when they came up short against the Milwaukee Bucks.