- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Phoenix Suns found the answer for their peculiar struggles in Minnesota: Shaq.

Shaquille O’Neal had 18 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks to help the balanced Phoenix Suns to a 110-102 victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night, snapping their three-game losing streak in Minnesota.

Steve Nash added 20 points and six assists in 27 minutes for the Suns, who were playing the second game of a back-to-back but still had enough in the tank to down the woeful Wolves.

Al Jefferson continued to dominate Phoenix with 28 points and 17 rebounds, including a franchise-record 12 on the offensive end. He averaged 30.5 points and 15.3 rebounds in four games against Phoenix last season.

Minnesota outrebounded Phoenix 49-36, but missed 11 free throws in the game.

As dire as things have been for the Timberwolves in the past two years, they have always found a way to give the powerful Suns all they could handle and more in this building.

Last season, the Suns dropped both games in Target Center. The first snapped a five-game winning streak and the second a four-gamer. Two years ago, their 17-game roll came to a screeching halt in the chilly Twin Cities.

Acquired in a trade with Miami at the deadline last season, O’Neal wasn’t around for any of those games. His presence made a world of difference on Wednesday night.

After sitting out Tuesday night’s game against Oklahoma City to rest up for the Wolves, the big fella clogged the middle all night long, getting Jefferson into foul trouble in the third quarter and putting an exclamation point on the victory in the fourth.

O’Neal nearly tore the goal down on an alley-oop dunk from Matt Barnes with just over 5 minutes to play, then made three of four free throws and added a steal for good measure to put away the game.

All five Phoenix starters scored in double figures.

The Suns made 14 of their first 20 shots against a lackadaisical Minnesota defense and led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter.

Minnesota whittled that down to five points late in the period and pulled within six in the final minute, but missed free throws and 17 turnovers ultimately doomed them.

Notes:@ Wolves G Rashad McCants played after missing 2 1/2 games with a back spasms. He had three points and five turnovers in his first eight minutes. … Rookie official Eric Dalen sure made his presence felt early in the second quarter. He whistled Mike Miller for a delay of game warning for not having his jersey tucked in as he entered the game, then gave coach Randy Wittman a quick technical.

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