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Game Preview: Knicks @ Suns, 5/7/2021

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My flight to Sedona got canceled. In the cultural sense.

NBA Basketball 2005 - Knicks vs. Suns Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images

Back in Madison Square the Knicks looked ready to truck the Suns, but Phoenix just chipped away until they finally took the reins and whipped. Now the ‘Bockers head to the westerly rock garden hoping to smash these punk Kokopelli’s.

With no clue how to get the Nuggets to tense up, hopefully the Knicks can tap right back into the juice that has made them the hottest team in the NBA over the last 15 games. Now on the road and missing some key contributors they’ll definitely have their work cut out for them.

Phoenix Suns’ Stephon Marbury guards New York Knicks’ Latrel Photo by Keith Torrie/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Projected Starters

Phoenix will field largely the same group that made a rabid comeback and swallowed the Knicks whole in the closing moments in Manhattan. Jae Crowder is out again but this time the extra punch they got from Cam Johnson might be shadowboxing on the sidelines.

Speaking of questionable...

Elfrid Payton v Chris Paul

Reggie Bullock v Devin Booker

RJ Barrett v Mikal Bridges

Julius Randle v Torrey Craig

Nerlens Noel v Deandre Ayton

What the hell are the Knicks gonna do without the threat of Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks’ scoring pop? Oh yea. Sorry if you hadn’t heard but trouble is brewing.

Because the Knicks play a dirge to open games and second halves, the starting unit must absorb the clotted spacing and perform irrespective of the downbeat. Typically that drought is irrigated by a second unit that can Gallagher their watermelons through an unkind iron.

Knicks v Suns X

Keys & Predictions

One thing is for sure. Whatever Reggie Bullock was doing with Devin Booker did not work in New York. Booker plays with the combo of shiftiness and aggression that gives Bully trouble. One or the other, please. Booker’s steady diet of pull ups gave him enough room to spring free and get to the cup. With Immanuel Quickley sitting, might I suggest.

MIGHT I SUG-FUCKING-GEST!

This seems like a job for your best perimeter defender. Dare I say this is a situational affront to your job safety. Get Frank Ntilikina in the game. Don’t extend Elfrid Payton’s unearned lazy minutes. Not even Mike Breen can’t handle it anymore.

With the Raptors and Suns, Julius Randle saw extreme levels of attention. He still found ways to pierce the armor but the beginnings of a plan for the borderline MVP candidate have started to emerge. Both teams sent a big strong wing to get him out high and then had guards effectively skipping away from Elfrid Payton, happily applying bonus waves of pressure.

Then in Denver, the Nuggets used the same concept but instead of shifting down in size, they added even more size to the help defenders. Part of it was born out of necessity, with a severely depleted guard rotation, but it rendered all the fatty bites totally dry and un-chewable. A maw of stringy, chalky leather doesn’t have the makings of a Michelin Star meal. So the Knicks took their beet juice beat down and moved on.

As the pressure cooker continues to steam, each game is feeling dire and critical. New York will have to remain calm under fire, otherwise the upcoming games against the desperate Lakers and Spurs will offer some playoff intensity that the Knicks would likely prefer to avoid so they can hit up the playoffs in good health. Tonight the Suns, who have clinched a playoff berth but have yet to pin down their seed in the West, will certainly look to keep distance from the Knicks next opponent, the Clippers. What a messy ratking the end of the season has become.

Game is at 10:00, Knicks by -32.

Phoenix Suns v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Parting Shot

Luck just never really seems to be shining down on the Knicks. Every roll of the dice is another chunk of flesh to repay the student loan debt of a lifetime. Is it possible they have finally, dramatically, stepped out from under the weight? And, dare I say, learned their lesson?

There’s still quite a ways to go, but the Knicks are finally, barely, in the black.

New York Knicks v Phoenix Suns