A week-and-a-half ago, when the Knicks played the Suns at The Mecca, Phoenix held nothing back as they snapped the Knicks’ nine-game winning streak.
Tonight, the Knicks put up a good fight in the desert of Arizona. In the end, however, it was in vain.
After a one-sided defeat in the Mile High City to the Nuggets on Wednesday night, the Knicks performed better tonight against the Phoenix Suns. Despite this, they let their good form slip away in the fourth quarter and ultimately lost 128-105–their second loss in a row. Deandre Ayton dominated for the Suns, leading them with 26 points and 15 rebounds for a double-double. On the other side of the court, Julius Randle led the Knicks with 24 points. Immanuel Quickley, who led the Knicks in scoring Wednesday night, was unavailable tonight. In his place, Derrick Rose was featured much more and scored 17 points.
Knicks Come Back in the First Quarter…
When the Knicks played the Nuggets on Wednesday night, a terrible first quarter played a big role in their loss. Tonight, at least briefly, there was some déjà vu. In the middle of the first frame, after going up 12-8, the Suns went on a 9-0 run. Even though the Knicks were down by 13 at that point, they didn’t let that gap get to their heads. With about four minutes left and down 23-14, the Knicks responded with a run of their own. They went 10-0, capped off by a clutch three-pointer from Reggie Bullock. By the time the first quarter ended the Knicks were up 33-30, with Randle helping the cause with 13 points.
…But Lose it in the Fourth Quarter
Going into the final frame, it looked like the Knicks were going to pull away and win–or, at least have a solid chance of winning. They led for most of the middle two quarters, Randle and RJ Barrett already had 21 and 18 points respectively and they had proven to close out games as of late.
Much to their chagrin, however, it was the Suns who pulled away. For the majority of that entire frame, the Suns were ahead. They opened up the game with their high-offensive output, showing accuracy with both their field goals and their three-pointers. The stats show it all; in that quarter alone, the Suns had a 54.5 FG% compared to the Knicks’ 29.4FG% and they also had a 66.7 3P% while the Knicks had a paltry 22.2 3P%. Rose, who had been great up until that point, went 0-3 including 0-2 from behind the arch.
For the Suns, it was Jae Crowder who carried them through this quarter. In the first three quarters combined he only had six points. In this quarter alone he doubled that total. He was a sniper, shooting 4-6 with his three-pointers. Behind him was Chris Paul, who finished that quarter with seven points. In the end, he was four rebounds off of a triple-double, scoring 12 points with 11 assists. Crowder, Paul, and the Suns were so lethal that they opened up and finished the game with a 23-point lead–their biggest of the night.
With an off-day tomorrow, the Knicks have a quick break as they travel to Los Angeles for their final road games of the season. They have a game against the Clippers this Sunday afternoon before facing the Lakers on Tuesday night. After that, they return home for a three-game homestand to finish the regular season.
The countdown to the playoffs has already officially begun, making every game count that much more. To secure a high seed, the Knicks need to regain their focus and finish strong–both in terms of the regular season and in their individual games. If they want any chance in the playoffs, they’re going to have to prevent losses like this one. They need to find their clutch shooting again and not slack off on defense.
Last night, the Atlanta Hawks lost to the Indiana Pacers, meaning they are still just half a game behind the Knicks. In the sixth spot, below the Hawks, are the Miami Heat. They too are pretty close, with just one game separating them and the Knicks. As you can tell, it’s getting down to the wire. It’s now or never. The Knicks need to keep fighting hard and playing tough. The playoffs await and they must be ready for whatever may come their way.