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Suns 118, Knicks 97: “This is a bad matchup”

Insert turkey/hangover joke here.

Phoenix Suns v New York Knicks Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The numbers tell the story: this year the New York Knicks are top-10 in 3-point shooting (attempts and makes), opponent’s field-goal percentage, opponent’s 2-point percentage and blocked shots. Their opponents last night, the Phoenix Suns, are tops in field goal percentage and top-10 in 2-point accuracy, 3-point accuracy, free throw accuracy, rebounds, assists, steals, fewest turnovers, opponent’s field-goal percentage, opponent’s 2-point percentage, opponent’s free throw percentage, turnovers forced and even opponent’s blocked shots. Mix all that together, cook for 48 minutes at 72 degrees and you get a 118-97 Suns’ win, their 15th in a row and seventh straight over New York.

The numbers tell the story: the first half of the first quarter featured both teams scoring at a furious rate. Evan Fournier hit three 3s in the opening minutes, but the Knicks gained no separation. When you’ve got Devin Booker, Cam Johnson and Landry Shamet all beyond the arc and the ball movement’s in full swing, the Suns are very much a pick-your-poison proposition.

The numbers tell the story: Fournier missed his next seven shots and the Knicks clanged a dozen of their next baker’s dozen 3s. After scoring 21 in the first seven minutes, they scored 15 over the next 15. The Suns are a dangerous opponent, the league’s best-shooting outfit; they don’t need any help, but the Knicks kept turning the ball over and over and over and over again.

In case you couldn’t tell yet, the numbers really do tell you all you need to know about this one. The Suns went up as many as 18 in a first half that saw them with five times as many assists as turnovers; the Knicks had more turnovers than dimes. The second half opened with Kemba Walker taking the baton from Fournier’s first quarter flamethrowing, as the pride of Rice High School put up a quick 10-spot. But the Knicks were outclassed from the jump; any little run of success — and in this one they were all mini-runs; no fake comebacks need apply — was like standing on the ocean shore, admiring some new definition in your tricep, as a 10-foot wave comes crashing down on you. Phoenix was that fluid, that forceful.

Booker scored 11 in the third. The Suns were 11-0 this year when leading entering the fourth; they’re 12-0 after the Knicks fell behind as many as 24 in the final frame. New York was never competitive — not in the fourth, not in the third, not in the second. The only good thing about this loss is there’s less than 24 hours till the next game. Get a W and move on from the stink of this one fast as you can.

Notes

  • The battle between the league’s third-highest scoring bench in Phoenix and New York’s fifth-ranked reserves went to the Knickerbockers, 43-37. That factoid is also a more diplomatic way of pointing out the starters were outscored 81-54 by a team who’s 81-32 including the playoffs since 2020-21. Good things come in threes, so here’s another 81 for ya.
  • Julius Randle wasn’t worried three days ago. I imagine he’s not worried tonight. Me neither. Into every season a few stinkers must fall, so having one against the defending Western conference champs and hottest team under the sun is nothing to be ashamed of. It was a disappointing, disheartening disemboweling. But ‘tis no shame.
  • Teams never need to apologize for their record — no matter who you can play, the best you can do is win. Players never need to apologize for their production — even in blowouts featuring end-of-the-bench crews, no matter who you play, the best you can do is play hard and well. Immanuel Quickley put up a lotta points in the fourth, with the game well out of reach. Still, those are good reps for him. Obi Toppin attacking the offensive glass the way he did is good reps. Quentin Grimes missed five of his six shots, but maybe the one he made is the one that sticks with him, builds some confidence, and gets the Knicks that much closer to a someday reliable rotation regular.
  • IQ got a little bit under Chris Paul’s skin, and let’s just say CP3 took it a lot better than Michael Jordan 30 years ago when rookie Greg Anthony tugged on his cape. And, ya know, maybe his face, too.
  • In one sequence Obi threw up a desperate and doomed turnaround, dropped a pass out of bounds, then badly missed trying to finish a drive. Normally you’d like to see him get more than 14 minutes in a game that wasn’t competitive the entire second half, but that bit about stinkers applies here, too. He struggled some tonight. Bounce back next game.
  • Sometimes Toppin’s form on corner 3s looks like a C&E Catholic taking communion. It’s mechanical, their heart’s clearly not totally into it, but it’s what you do when you’re there; it’ll look weird if you don’t, etc.
  • Grimes played 17 minutes after entering the game with 23 all year. That was cool. Miles McBride got a little run, too, as did Jericho Sims. McBride turned a steal into a lay-up on the other end. Sims remains absolutely captivating to my eyes, as he’s one of like six players in the NBA without any tattoos.
  • The joy in my heart watching a Knick center square up for a wide-open corner 3 vs. the icy fear in my heart realizing it was Nerlens Noel taking that shot reminded me that my Knicks Christmas list has had “big-bodied center who can shoot and defend” on it for a while. As have fans of most teams, I imagine.
  • Noel appeared to have some knee discomfort for a bit.
  • The Suns’ orange uniforms were a beautiful complement to the Knicks and the Garden floor. I’ve liked them since I was a kid ‘cuz I decided there was at least a common color bond between the teams.
  • Late in the first half after a New York timeout, Phoenix stole the inbounds and Jae Crowder hit a 3. That brought to mind the Crowder/Elfrid Payton beef a few years ago. Crowder and Elf are now teammates, because not only is truth stranger than fiction, it’s soooo much more awkward.
  • On this day in 2005:

Quoth DRoseFan29: “This is a bad matchup for the Knicks.” Speaking of bad matchups, New York’s next game is a reunion with last year’s playoff bullies, Atlanta. The Hawks are riding a seven-game winning streak and sit just above the Knicks in the Eastern standings. And in case you’re wondering, Trae Young finally seems to have found himself and finds he’s just fine.

This is a big game for the Knicks, not only to try and stay above .500, but to see where they stand 20 games into this season after the Hawks’ thorough dismissal of them last season. If you have any leftovers left over tomorrow night, you’re in for a good night, friend-o.