Preview: Suns (14-3) at Knicks (3-14)

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Knicks 126, Suns 99

Suns

Suns

Knicks

Knicks

With the Suns and Knicks sporting extreme opposite records, the obvious angle to this game has to do with this season answering the question of whether Mike D’Antoni’s system made Steve Nash or whether he was D’Antoni’s system.

It will likely be hard for Mike D to watch a Suns team that he would love to coach doing the type of things that Steve Kerr asked him to do before their ugly divorce (think develop a bench and focus a tad more on defense).

Offensively the Suns will provide the young Knicks with a nice lesson on how D’Antoni wants them to play, and it will be interesting to see how far off New York is.

“When they shoot the basketball and they spread the floor they’re a very good offensive team just like we are,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. “We run probably 75 percent of the same things, so it will be like mirroring each other really.”

Both teams also run at the same pace, averaging 98.7 possessions per game to rank tied for fourth in the league, but the similarities stop there because the Suns have Steve Nash driving a talented offense and the Knicks have Chris Duhon driving a mediocre cast of characters, which is why the Suns are 14-3 and the Knicks 3-14.

The Suns’ offense is by far the best in the league with Phoenix averaging 114.0 points per 100 possessions, best in the league by four points every 100. Their 60.0 percent true shooting percentage also far and away leads the league.

The Knicks, meanwhile, average just 100.8 points per 100 (24th) and boast a TS percentage of 53.0 (20th). The Suns should also have a field day against New York’s No. 26 defense (108.0 pp 100).

The Suns’ shooting has been particularly torrid during their most recent four-game winning streak, as they’ve shot 57.5 percent during the run, a truly astounding stretch for almost 200 minutes of basketball.

It’s also pretty amazing that after winning more than three in a row just once in all of 2008-09 (a six-game winning streak in March), the Suns have won four in a row three times in their first 17 games. As they go for their first five-game winning streak of the year, the Suns are already more games over .500 than they ever were last season.

The only doom and gloom on Planet Orange right now revolves around the health of super sixth man Leandro Barbosa, who could be out two to four weeks after spraining his ankle Sunday in Toronto, according to The Arizona Republic. That would keep him out between seven and 14 crucial games, which is too bad as the schedule stiffens immensely once the Suns leave New York.

After struggling with a wrist injury most of the year, LB was just starting to look like LB again after striking for 17 points in 15 minutes against the Raptors. The silver lining is this could be the perfect antidote for his ailing wrist, and when he comes back Barbosa could be the LB Suns fans all know and love.

In his place, I’d expect a touch more of Goran Dragic, who has played very well next to Nash at times this year, as well as an increased load of Jared Dudley at the two and maybe even some Earl Clark with Grant Hill sliding to the two. Clark showed in Minnesota that he deserves some floor time, so this injury could be a blessing in disguise for the Suns’ rookie.

The Suns will miss LB during the course of his injury, but I doubt they will tonight. They’ve won their last four by an average of over 21 per, and I’d be surprised if this one is even that close.

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