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Suns 116, Knicks 113: Scenes from a Booker bash in the second half

The Knicks needed another comeback but fell just short, wasting 35 points from Jalen Brunson and 28 from Julius Randle.

Phoenix Suns v New York Knicks Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images

The New York Knicks (9-7) needed a huge comeback to beat the Heat on Friday. They needed another comeback in tonight’s tilt against the Phoenix Suns (11-6) but this time fell short. Final score, 116-113.

Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, and Grayson Allen all sat for Phoenix. The Suns have surprising depth, though. With Eric Gordon contributing a season-high 25 points, Devin Booker having a career-best year, and with six players hitting threes, Phoenix proved too tough for the ‘Bockers.

New York dug a hole for themselves in the first half, playing doofus defense and getting clobbered on the glass. In the second, they fought back from a 15-point deficit to briefly go ahead by two, but a three-point dagger by Devin Booker with 1.7 seconds left sealed this one. It went something like this. . . .

First Quarter

Phoenix ran up a 7-0 lead before Jalen Brunson found a bucket. The Suns are a top-five three-point shooting team and made three of five attempts over the first four and a half minutes. The almost-35-year-old Eric Gordon had all three triples, posting an early 11 points. Thibs needed a timeout at the 7:40 mark, down 15-6.

Jalen Brunson to the rescue. He scored the next eight points for New York, without much help from his teammates. Despite his efforts, Phoenix stumbled to a 14-point lead. The Knicks porous defense gave little resistance in the first frame, and they took a beating on the glass. Big Sun Jusuf Nurkić had seven rebounds in the first quarter; New York had a total of 8.

Although the Knicks had shot 52% from the floor, the Suns had grabbed the majority of offensive rebounds (8 to 2) and had scored seven second chance points to New York’s none.

As usual, Brunson proved to be the team’s bright spot. He shot 6-of-8 for the first quarter, scoring a team-high 12 points.

Second Quarter

New York started the quarter behind, 34-22. Immanuel Quickley, Donte DiVincenzo, RJ Barrett, Josh Hart, and Isaiah Hartenstein tried to find some mojo. The Suns pushed their lead to 15. Brunson checked in for Barrett, Robinson came back, and New York went on an 8-0 run that cut the deficit to seven.

Phoenix recovered quickly, getting mostly whatever they wanted and eclipsing the half-century mark midway through the frame. For a slow-paced team, the Suns scorched the court tonight. With a late push, New York chipped at the score and entered intermission behind, 64-56.

Devin Booker, a non-factor thus far (but not for long), had shot 2-of-8 for eight points. Eric Gordon led his sunny squad through the first half with 17 points and had shot 4-of-6 from downtown.

Phoenix had bludgeoned New York on the glass, outrebounding them 30 to 18. They had 13 offensive boards to New York’s five, had scored more points in the paint (26 to 22), and feasted on second-chance points, 12 to five.

They Knicks had shot 49% from the floor and 43% from deep; Phoenix, 44% and 36%. Brunson had scored 20 of the team’s 56 points and attempted 13 shots in 19 minutes. Quickley had scored eight points in his 11 minutes. Julius Randle didn’t score his second field goal until the final minute in the half.

Your halftime shot chart:

Third Quarter

After intermission, Brunson and Gordon scored to keep the narrative consistent. Quentin Grimes finally laid in his first points of the game, a triple. The Knicks found themselves down by only three. Booker woke up to drop some buckets, and Gordon drained yet another three. From a three-point deficit to 13 in under two minutes. Sheesh.

Brunson, Brunson, Brunson. He made four field goals and grabbed two steals this quarter to keep the Knicks alive. Immanuel Quickley checked in at the five minute mark, hit a triple, and the Knicks were an 8-0 run. Randle hit two free throws, then completed a three-point play, and brought his team within three points.

After Booker hit a jumper, Brunson answered with a triple to reach 30 points and cut the deficit to two. After that, Randle came roaring to life. Julius scored 17 points in the frame and gave the Knicks their first lead of the game with just over two minutes remaining in the frame.

These Suns shooters are ridiculous from deep. If not Gordon, then Booker; if not Booker, then Nassir Little; if not Little, then Chimezie Metu; if not Metu, then Jordan Goodwin. Their top two three-point marksmen (Durant and Grayson Allen) weren’t even playing, and the Suns were raining threes. Thanks to the long-range buckets, they carried a 95-92 lead into the fourth.

Fourth Quarter

Phoenix reached 100 points with nine minutes remaining. Isaiah Hartenstein provided his usual fourth-quarter effort, sweeping up around the rim and making his free throws. Randle kept chugging, too, swishing a timely fall-away jumper to keep the score close and giving good effort on the glass. He missed two important shots, however, and was so caught up with protesting a non-call, he missed out on rebounding a bricked Robinson free throw. So goes the Julius Randle experience . . . one minute you love him, the next minute you want to bonk him on the head with a Nerf hammer.

Mitch re-entered midway through the quarter. Shortly after, Brunson drew another offensive charge, and hit a triple to knot the score at 107 with five on the clock. Booker kept cooking, however, and would score 21 second-half points. Down by two with a minute left, the Knicks needed a stop.

They got it. When Nurkic dribbed into Robinson under the rim, Randle poked the ball away as the shot clock expired. Ball back in hand, New York needed a bucket, which would come from who else by Jalen Brunson?

Score tied 113 apiece. 22 seconds on the clock. Devin Booker got the ball, got to his spot behind the arc, and, with Randle and Barrett defending, he laced a three with 1.7 seconds left.

After that, Brunson received the inbound pass and rimmed out a three. Ball game.

Your Starters:

  • Jalen Brunson: 35 points, eight assists, six rebounds, three steals, three TO, one block, 15-of-25 FG, 5-of-10 3P, 38 minutes
  • Quentin Grimes: three points, three boards, two dimes, 1-of-5 FG, 1-of-3 3P, 20 minutes.
  • R.J. Barrett: nine points, two rebounds, one assist, one block, 3-of-11 FG, 0-of-2 3p, 31 minutes.
  • Julius Randle: 28 points, five boards, two dimes, two TO, 10-of-21 FG, 1-of-4 3P, 36 minutes.
  • Mitchell Robinson: 11 rebounds, three points, one apiece for steals, blocks, assists, and turnovers, 34 minutes.

Up Next

The Hornets, again. Charlotte will visit on Tuesday for New York’s final game of In-Season Tournament group play. An injured LaMelo Ball was helped to the locker room in tonight’s game, so he might not play. Should be a dub. Get your rest, Knickerbockers.

Box Score