The Minnesota Timberwolves pride themselves on being a defensive-oriented team.
Too often Monday night, they had no defense for Boris Diaw or the Phoenix Suns during a 103-89 loss in front of 17,197 at Target Center.
Diaw, a 2003 first-round draft pick from France, scored a career-high 31 points. He made 11 of 16 shots and added 11 rebounds and five assists.
The free-falling Wolves suffered their sixth loss in seven games. The Suns acquired Diaw and two first-round picks from Atlanta in a sign-and-trade deal for Joe Johnson during the offseason.
"He's a versatile player who can handle the ball, pass the ball and shoot the ball," Minnesota point guard Troy Hudson said. "He's a big guy (6 feet 8). We know he has skills. He hasn't played like this the entire season, but he has been steady. In the NBA, any guy can step up any night."
With Diaw leading the way, Phoenix shot 51.9 percent. The Suns pushed the ball up court seemingly whenever they pleased.
They made three-pointers in transition-including a trio during the deciding 13-0 run in the fourth quarter-and had the offensive freedom to do what they wanted thanks to Steve Nash, who had 24 points and 12 assists.
Phoenix outscored Minnesota 13-0 in fast-break points.
The Wolves scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter to get as close as 80-77.
But that's when the Suns proved just how dangerous they are on offense.
Phoenix's James Jones hit a three-pointer from the corner to make it a six-point margin again. Then Eddie House made a mid-range jumper, Hudson missed a short shot for the Wolves, and House buried a three-pointer for an 88-77 advantage.
Minnesota's Kevin Garnett missed a shot in the post, and Jones nailed another three-pointer, turning the momentum decidedly in favor of Phoenix, 91-77. Diaw's layup extended the lead to 16 points.
"We cut it to three, and then Eddie House made one three 1 on 5 with me draped all over him. But that's the way they play," said Wally Szczerbiak, who led the Wolves with 27 points. "They play very positively, and Boris Diaw is a totally different player with them than he was with Atlanta. He played great tonight. They have their staples that will be there night in and night out in (Shawn) Marion and Nash, and then they have guys who step up."
Diaw was the one who stepped up after Minnesota climbed to within 10 points. His driving shot off the glass with 3:14 remaining made it 97-85.
Then Diaw posted up Hudson and made a turnaround jumper with 2:34 left for a 99-87 lead. After that, the only question left was the final margin.
"I'm very confident, and I have to continue to be aggressive," Diaw said. "On this team, everyone is looking for everyone. The next game, it may be Shawn or Nash or James Jones. That's what makes this team so hard to stop. It's a different guy every night."
Marion finished with 21 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks.
With centers Michael Olowokandi and Mark Madsen hampered by injuries, the Wolves played with three guards for much of the game.
Olowokandi was on the inactive list for the first time this season with a sore right elbow. That meant Minnesota used a different starting lineup for the first time this season, with Madsen filling in for Olowokandi. But Madsen bruised his back in the first quarter and didn't return.
The small ball approach worked well for stretches, but it seemed as if Phoenix could go on a run when necessary.
The Wolves trailed 45-42 at halftime before a 13-0 Suns spurt to start the third quarter. Diaw scored nine of those points and finished with 15 in the third quarter and 21 in the second half.
"We didn't do a good job of matching up in transition," Minnesota coach Dwane Casey said. "They were playing a small lineup. We didn't recognize quickly enough, because they were coming down and not looking to run a play but looking for the three-point line. If you're not ready to get back in transition, it's going to be a long night."
In other NBA action: Cleveland 102, Chicago 91; Washington 94, LA Lakers 91; Orlando 108, Milwaukee 93; New Jersey 109, NY Knicks 101; Dallas 102, Indiana 80; Utah 105, Memphis 102 (OT); Seattle 118, Boston 111; Portland 105, Sacramento 92; Denver 118, Golden State 112.