MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - There are two goals for the Phoenix Suns as this NBA season comes to a close: win games while getting extended playing time for some reserves.
The Suns showed it was possible to accomplish both in a 108-98 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Despite sitting both Steve Nash and Grant Hill for the entire second and fourth quarters, Phoenix was never seriously threatened by the team that now has the worst record in the NBA.
``We desperately needed a win,' said Gentry, whose team had lost six of seven and four straight on the road. ``We're trying to close out the year on a positive note. It's tough when you know you're not going to be in the playoffs and you know it's coming to an end.'
The Suns need to win three of four to finish .500, a season after playing in the Western Conference finals.
``It's nice to win games and have something positive to end the season,' Nash said. ``.500 is better than not. It would be great if we can do it.'
If that's going to happen, the Suns are going to need more performances like they got against Minnesota.
Because while starters Marcin Gortat scored 20 points and grabbed 16 rebounds and Hill scored 17 points in less than 19 minutes of action, Phoenix got 58 points from its reserves.
Aaron Brooks, who the Suns acquired from Houston in February, scored 19 points with six assists. Hakim Warrick added 17 and Vince Carter (12) and Josh Childress (10) were also among six Suns in double figures.
``I wanted to have Aaron play at least half the game and then use some of the other guys,' Gentry said. ``I wanted to see Josh play extended minutes also.'
Brooks certainly was effective against the Timberwolves. While the Suns saw an early 15-point lead vanish in the second quarter, Brooks ran the point and made good decisions when Phoenix put the game away in the fourth quarter.
``I was just trying to get comfortable and give Steve a rest,' said Brooks after recording his second-best point total since the trade. ``The guy plays a lot of minutes and I just wanted to give him a break and the only way to do that is by playing well.
``I wish it could have been a different situation, going to the playoffs. I feel like it is a good team and something to build on.'
Nash, who scored six points, finished with nine assists, coming just short of his 50th double-digit assist game this season. Nash is also one double-double away from the 400th of his career.
While the Suns are still trying to get better, the Timberwolves have hit bottom.
With Cleveland's victory at Toronto, Minnesota's 17-62 record is worst in the league. The Timberwolves have lost 11 consecutive games and 22 of its past 26.
``I feel bad for our guys,' Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis said. ``It's very hard emotionally on the players to go through a season like this.'
Michael Beasley scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were playing again without the injured All-Star Kevin Love (groin).
Love has now missed six of the past eight games because of a groin injury, but Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis refused to say that the forward is done for the season.
Darko Milicic, who injured his left ankle in Friday's loss to Miami returned briefly for Minnesota. Milicic, however, played only 10 minutes after re-injuring the ankle.
With Gentry mixing his lineups, Minnesota was within 89-85 when Anthony Randolph (19 points) made a pair of free throws with less than 10 minutes to play. The Suns quickly got the lead back to double digits with an 8-2 run and it grew from there.
Consecutive baskets from Gortat gave Phoenix a 105-92 lead with 2:22 to play.
Notes: Minnesota assistant coach Reggie Theus is expected to interview Thursday for the coaching vacancy at UNLV, his alma mater. ... Milicic announced Wednesday he will raffle off his 2004 NBA Championship ring he won with the Detroit Pistons and proceeds will go to support hospitals and organizations fighting life threatening childhood diseases. ... Gortat recorded his eighth double-double in the past 11 games. ... The Suns have won seven consecutive games against Minnesota. ... With Love out, Anthony Tolliver made his first start of the season for Minnesota. ... Minnesota has now allowed opponents to score at least 100 points 59 times this season. They are 6-53 in those games.
The Associated Press News Service
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