The New York Knicks blasted the Phoenix Suns defeating the MSG visitors 102-83. This victory was the first for New York against Zona’s squad in ten attempts, having lost all last nine games against the Suns and getting back to Jan. 2018 when the Knicks last defeated Phoenix 107-85.
After this result, both teams share the same record 38 games into their seasons, both with a 20-18 balance (.526) and sitting eighth in their respective conferences. The Knicks are now 6.5 games separated from the no. 1 seed in the East (Boston) while Phoenix is 4.5 behind the no. 1 seed in the West (Denver).
“The way our guys came out... they played really hard defensively and played very unselfish offensively,” said Tom Thibodeau after the game. “It is sometimes difficult to play with a lead like that, but I thought our guys did a good job of playing tough.”
Thibodeau was referring to the 21-0 run that put the Knicks 52-20 ahead and helped New York lead the Suns by a game-high 32 points. The Knicks won the first quarter by a blatant 23-11 score with another sound second-quarter effort that saw the game enter halftime at 54-31 in favor of the hosts.
The Suns never recovered, winning the remaining two quarters but just two points each but never really threatening with pulling off a comeback.
“I think our defense and our rebounding... we’re getting back on track,” Thibodeau said. Phoenix Suns’ coach Monty Williams called the Knicks “just a typical Thibs team” after the game was over.
New York is now one game away from getting to .500 at MSG having gone 9-10 so far this season on home turf. The Knicks are the only franchise in the NBA with a winning overall record but a losing tally at home after having lost the last three at MSG before Monday’s matinee triumph.
Julius Randle put on another All-Star-type performance leading New York in points (28) and rebounds (16) to go with six dimes and a steal to spare. M-V-P chants coming from the stands bathed Randle in joyous glory.
"Playing in front of the fans in the Garden man. It's love. I love it"— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) January 2, 2023
— Julius Randle continues his All-Star campaign as the Knicks dominate the Suns:
28 points game high
16 rebounds game high
6 assists team high
“It’s good to be on the good side of the Garden,” Randle said post-game. “It’s definitely a lot better feeling to be on that side.” Randle was, of course, referring to last season’s thumbs-down reaction and aftermath. “I don’t even remember that, that happened? Stop bringing up old s–t, man,” finished Randle.
The Suns started the game 4-0 but ended up losing a match for the sixth time in seven games. No warm body on Phoenix’s squad scored more than 12 points even though seven men got to hit at least 8 pops each. Chris Paul was limited to just 11 points and two dimes through the game, finishing with a nightmarish minus-38 in 30 minutes of play.
The main reason for that: Jalen Brunson’s return to the lineup after skipping the Texas Triangle. “It’s nothing against [Paul],” Brunson said after the game before adding that “it’s just like when you play against your idols, you want to play well.”
Brunson scored 24 points and assisted 6 buckets. Immanuel Quickley (15 points) and Quentin Grimes (12) started along with Brunson on a small three-man backcourt thanks to RJ Barrett’s absence while he keeps nurturing his lacerated finger.
“We were getting stops. We were sharing the ball. We were getting in the paint and making plays for each other,” said Brunson. He added that the 21-0 run was “just one of those where you don’t really know what’s going on, but it’s contagious.”
“Jalen is a playmaker,” said Thibodeau, “and whatever the game needs, he’s going to provide. He’s a master at creating advantages.”
Derrick Rose missed the game with a last-minute injury while Cam Reddish earned another DNPCP. Evan Fournier played 14 minutes and Miles McBride got an 18-minute run predicated on defense with just a couple of field-goal attempts.
Randle discussed the victory after the game, praising his teammates by saying that they are “getting me the ball in the right spots,” and “getting me going early.” For Randle, it is “just focus and effort, night in and night out.”
While the power forward isn’t getting even remotely close to entering the MVP race—as hearing the Knicks faithful on the crowd would have led you to believe if present at MSG on Monday—the truth is that Randle has been putting on very solid nightly efforts of late. Randle is averaging 24.1 PPG (20th-best in the NBA) and 9.7 RPG (14th). Only five players in the Association are currently playing to 24-9 per-game averages.
“You work hard to put yourself in a position to do that. So it would be amazing [to make the All-Star team],” said Randle after Monday’s matinee.
Randle clarified that he’d “love to experience it with my family, with both of my sons. My wife. Because they’re the ones who make the true sacrifice of letting me dedicate myself to the game the way I’ve been able to do.” He gave kudos to his family by saying that “they’ve been the ones making the true sacrifices so I love to be able to let them enjoy it and see the rewards of it. That’s why it’s important.”
Brunson’s 24 points are his most since hitting 30 back on Dec. 18. After the game, Randle said that “Brunson’s presence has taken the pressure off” him, to which Brunson replied that “it’s a nice compliment” before countering by saying that “it’s a lot of credit to Julius (because) he’s done everything (and) he’s been a great teammate, so I’m just doing my part,“ concluded Brunson.
“When we won eight in a row, the defensive end was big for us. We feel that rhythm and chemistry coming back on that end.”
That defense, referenced by Randle, will be needed on Wednesday as San Antonio (12-25) will visit New York after having beaten the Knicks 122-115 when both teams met last Thursday.
Tip-off at 7:30 PM EST, Jan. 4. Don’t miss it.