Photo Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Knicks disappoint at home
After suffering a tough loss to the Indiana Pacers, the New York Knicks looked to bounce back against the Phoenix Suns on Monday night. Conventional wisdom would lead many to believe the Knicks should be able to pull out a win against the Suns at home. Unfortunately, conventional wisdom doesn’t always apply to the game of basketball.
The road hasn’t been friendly to the Suns all season. Coming into last night’s matchup against the Knicks, the Suns have only won one game on the road. In other words, several NBA teams have used the Suns as punching bags in the comfort of their own home. Sadly for the Knicks, the Suns did most of the punching at Madison Square Garden.
Devin Booker led the way against an undermanned Knicks team
Devin Booker rose like a phoenix over the horizon and dropped a game-high 38 points. His offensive exploits led the Suns to a 128-110 beatdown of the Knicks, who were without the services of several key players. New York’s leading scorer Tim Hardaway Jr. had to sit out due to a right heel injury, and Damyean Dotson, Allonzo Trier, and Mitchell Robinson also sat out due to injury.
Jamal Crawford dismantled the Knicks defense on several occasions
The punishment handed out by Booker on offense helped the Suns tremendously, but the play of Jamal Crawford was pivotal. While Booker was providing the buckets, Crawford was providing the dishes like a waiter. Crawford carved up the Knicks defense like a holiday turkey and finished with a career-high 14 assists. Usually scoring is Crawford’s forte, but he assumed the point guard role and killed the Knicks by penetrating the paint. Every time Crawford drove to the hole, he’d find open shooters on the perimeter or find the cutter for an easy basket.
T.J. Warren had an efficient offensive game
In addition to Crawford’s precision passing, T.J. Warren was also a handful for the Knicks defense. Warren’s efficiency on offense was a sight to behold. He finished with 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting, but what was most impressive about Warren’s stat line was his 3-point shooting. In his previous three seasons, Warren only shot 28% from deep, but this season, he’s among the leaders in 3-point percentage (45%). He made 4-of-8 threes to devastate the Knicks.
Knicks vs. Suns was a game of two halves
Even though the scoreline implies the Suns dominated the game, that’s far from the truth. This game was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the Knicks dominated by playing good defense and moving the ball on offense. Without Hardaway Jr., other Knicks had to step up to pick up the scoring slack, and Emmanuel Mudiay rose to the challenge. Mudiay scored 18 points in the first half, and overall, he led the Knicks with 32 points. At halftime, the Knicks led 66-59.
The first half performance was the only highlight of the night for the Knicks. Afterward, the Suns flexed their muscle. Led by Warren’s 17 points, the Suns outscored the Knicks 41-17 in the third quarter. Phoenix’s explosive offensive output in the second half sealed their second win on the road. In addition to the Suns’ inability to miss shots, the combination of poor defense and bricking shots led to the Knicks demise. At one point, the Garden crowd became annoyed and rained boos once the Knicks fell behind by 23 points in the fourth quarter.
The Knicks defensive struggles continue
Currently, the Knicks are struggling on defense. To try and cure the defensive ailment haunting his team, David Fizdale implemented a zone defense which shifts between a 2-3 zone and a 1-3-1 zone. Usually, zone defenses are ineffective in the NBA because players are more consistent shooters as opposed to college players. Also, NBA players are more adept to solving defenses through ball movement. Therefore, it’s no surprise the Suns were able to dismantle the Knicks zone defense as the game wore on.
New York Knicks stats
Besides Mudiay’s great play, other Knicks also stepped up their game. Kevin Knox sparked the Knicks early by scoring 13 points in the first quarter, but afterward, he only managed to score 4 points. He finished the game with 17 points. Mario Hezonja had one of his better offensive performances, scoring 14 points off the bench. Enes Kanter and Courtney Lee contributed with 13 and 12 points respectively, and Kanter led the Knicks with 10 rebounds.
Following the disappointing loss to the Suns, it’ll be back to the drawing board for Fizdale. Hopefully, Fizdale will be able to concoct a defensive remedy soon because the Philadelphia Sixers will be waiting for the Knicks in Philly on Wednesday.