Knicks 126, Suns 99 — Ummm, seriously?

Posted by on December 2nd, 12:37 am

We thought these guys would be on the bench during the fourth quarter, but not because of this outcome. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

We thought these guys would be on the bench during the fourth quarter, but not because of this outcome. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

There will be games like this.

Over the course of an 82-game season there will be games where you just don’t have it.

You still don’t expect what transpired Tuesday night to occur, with a previously listless New York Knick team smacking around the Phoenix Suns, 126-99.

There really aren’t any excuses for a game like this, except maybe overconfidence. The Knicks are terrible, but if I didn’t know any better I would have thought I was watching the Lakers take apart the Suns in this one.

Before I get to the numbers — and they’re not pretty — the biggest problem in this loss was a lack of effort. Aside from Jared Dudley and Steve Nash, the Suns didn’t play with the usual fire that made this team the NBA’s best in November.

“I feel just like Bill Belichick felt last night,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry told Suns.com. “I think we were out-coached, we were out-played and we were out-hustled. It’s one of those games where I just didn’t think we played real well. I don’t want to take away anything from the Knicks because I think they played hard. I think they had a good game plan and they made shots. You can see what they’re capable of doing when they’re making shots and their offense flows well. They out-played us but it’s one game. We didn’t play real well and I’m disappointed. It’s not a very good feeling.”

Added Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni: “We just caught them on one of those nights when they’re flat. It just happens sometimes. The NBA is like that.”

The Knicks got whatever they wanted, and I mean everything. Wide-open layups, uncontested threes, it was really embarrassing. The night was summed up by a second-quarter sequence in which Danilo Gallinari, in the words of Kevin Arnovitz on the ESPN Daily Dime Live chat, “had literally enough time along the arc to check his feet twice, set, and shoot a 3PA — and there was still no close-out.”

If a middle school team gave that type of effort, they would be embarrassed. I don’t know if it was the bright lights or some sort of D’Antoni voodoo, but the Suns just didn’t look anything like the Suns. Rebounds would fall between players, and overall it looked like the Suns thought they could just walk into the Garden and come away with a win.

I know many of you Suns fans thought that would be the case, too. The only question seemed to center around whether the blowout would come early enough that the Suns’ starters would be nice and rested for Wednesday’s showcase game in Cleveland, and why shouldn’t that have been the general consensus coming into the game?

The Suns were the NBA’s best team in October/November at 14-3, Gentry was the NBA’s Coach of the Month (and deservedly so) and the Suns looked like world beaters in winning their past four, declaring victory by over 21 per game and shooting better than 57 percent during that stretch.

So naturally, against a Knicks squad that had lost five in a row and yielded 112 points per game during their slide, the Suns would suffer a 27-point blowout, their most lopsided defeat of the season.

Naturally a Knicks team that entered the game 1-8 at home (and 3-14 overall) would beat a Suns team that has become road warriors, entering this one 8-3 in an NBA-high-tying 11 road games, losing just one such previous game that wasn’t against an NBA Finalist on the second half of a back-to-back.

Naturally, after 17 blissful October/November games, on Dec. 1 the New York Knicks would be the first squad to hold Phoenix under 100 points, if ever so slightly, and naturally a Knicks team that had never even led by 16 points would enjoy that kind of lead before halftime and knock the Suns out by 27.

I suppose that’s life in a league that saw Minnesota, losers of 15 in a row, go into Denver and pin the Nuggets with their first loss in the Mile High City over the weekend.

“We didn’t play hard tonight, we got out-played, out-hustled – [we] didn’t deserve to win,” Nash told Suns.com. “Maybe we took them [Knicks] a little lightly, but you still have to play hard. They got all the loose balls, offensive rebounds. Obviously they made some shots and you take your hats off when shots are made, but it’s all the layups and hustle plays and not getting back on defense that kill you. They just played harder than we did. We’re embarrassed and have to pick ourselves up. Not a whole lot to say tonight.”

After their first 12-win month since November 2007, December could get ugly if the Suns play anywhere near this bad against a brutal upcoming schedule. Aside from the lack of hustle, their threes didn’t go in (4-for-17), they turned it over too much (17), Amare grabbed a single rebound in the first half and Alando Tucker was tied for second in scoring behind Nash after a 14-point fourth quarter in which the scrubs played.

As they have in previous blowout losses to the Lakers and Orlando, the Suns showed no fight. I was willing to forgive the lack of fight in those losses because of the caliber of the opponent and the difficulty of playing a back-to-back on the road, but there are no such excuses tonight.

The Suns have been the NBA’s most clutch team by showing a world of fight in clawing back from numerous double-digit victories, but the lack of any such fight in a very comebackable game (to make up a word) was very disconcerting.

This game does nothing for the argument of whether Nash made D’Antoni’s system or D’Antoni’s system made Nash. I think the last few years have proven that Nash is only Nash in such a system seeing how less effective he was under Terry Porter and that D’Antoni’s system isn’t nearly as effective when run by Chris Duhon. In that way I’m staying neutral and saying they needed each other to achieve the heights they did, although having Gentry around is like still having Mike D in many respects.

As for the loss, the Suns should have already forgotten about it. A monster test and a Big monster await them in Cleveland, where they can make everyone forget about their embarrassment in the Big Apple.

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

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Tags: Mike D'Antoni · New York Knicks · Phoenix Suns Recap · Steve Nash

17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 KJ Loyalist // Dec 2, 2009 at 12:51 am

    asani if 4 losses on the season makes your confidence falter, perhaps you need a new team.

    the 2009 system got beat by the 2005 system. It's a crushing loss, 3 of the 4 losses have been devastatingly bad, but they all count as one loss. Nothing more than that.

    Bright side is that they'll be more than rested and pissed off heading into Cleveland. If the Cavs don't bring 100%, they'll be blown out by 30.

  • 2 The Z. Man // Dec 2, 2009 at 1:22 am

    Mike Dumb Antoni coached the Suns the year before the return of Nash.

    Most folks don't remember that. Mike couldn't win a game to save his life. Amazing that he was even still around the following year to be saved by Nash.

    When a team wins the front end of a back to back (not only Suns but even Lakers), they get an adrenaline high. Post adrenaline crash comes the following day, when that team needs a rest. Because the schedule will not accomodate their need for a "Sabbath" (day of rest), legs feel like lead, particularly after the all too brief rest during half time. Flip side can be seen when teams like the Magic and Mavs suffer an embarassing loss. No adrenaline high. Just revenge's fury. Hope this fury serves our Suns well vs. Cavs. Nash is also without his preferred backcourt mate. Most often overlooked is how they play their best ball when Nash plays with the Brazilian Blur. Unfortunately, he is hurt and won't be able to play.

    MUST start and ALSO finish with LB. Let's go SUNS!!!!

  • 3 Jason Ellis // Dec 2, 2009 at 1:41 am

    Some fans are speculating that the win was a Christmas gift from the Suns players to Mike D'Antoni. I would hate for that to be the case, but from their effort, a strong argument could be made.

  • 4 Justin B. // Dec 2, 2009 at 2:23 am

    RE: Present to D'Antoni. I was actually just thinking that on the way to work today. Maybe, just maybe, it was some sort of gift to D'Antoni. There aren't really any other explanations that sufficiently describe what happened.

  • 5 Vic De Zen // Dec 2, 2009 at 4:50 am

    "Aside from Jared Dudley and Steve Nash, the Suns didn’t play with the usual fire that made this team the NBA’s best in November."

    Good call. Dudley always plays with fire.

  • 6 asani // Dec 2, 2009 at 6:49 am

    it is hard to believe this team is for real when you look at the losses. They are getting blowed the hell out everytime they lose and the starters look like shit when the lose. I am starting to lose confidence in this team. Frustrating

  • 7 Justin B. // Dec 2, 2009 at 7:00 am

    Most shameful loss in a long time for the Suns. Nothing else to say.

  • 8 John C. // Dec 2, 2009 at 7:01 am

    Pathetic performance and thoroughly embarrassing. Amare's defense was offensive, at least to the Knicks. Hill, Nash, and Stoudemire as veterans should not allow this to happen. Giving your best competitive effort and losing is one thing. Playing defense like a bull fighter with a red cape is deplorable.

  • 9 Biscuit // Dec 2, 2009 at 7:37 am

    This was maybe the worst I have seen the Suns play in years. The Knicks are a sad team to watch and honestly I almost didn't watch the game because I feel bad for the Knicks. You would think the team would have more energy when they play Mike D. Even when they were getting killed at halftime, I laughed it off cause it's unimaginable that a team that bad would embarrass the suns. They looked awful, however I still think they are the best team in the league as their record suggests. I just pray they don't have to play the Nets for awhile or a bigger embarrassment can surely come after that. They better rebound tonight against the Cavs or maybe they are just a good team and not the great team we think they are.

  • 10 KJ Loyalist // Dec 2, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Just breathe guys, breathe.

    Keep in mind that when a system goes up against the MD system, if they aren't flawless they run the risk of being blown out.

    MD is going to run at any chance and fire threes, so if the other team is doing the same and has an off night. The result happens.

    Just remember, it's one game, & tonight is far more important now.

  • 11 Zane // Dec 2, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Not that big of a deal. Theyll just come out and beat the shit out some other sorry team.

  • 12 Zane // Dec 2, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Not that big of a deal. Theyll just come out and beat the shit out some other sorry team.

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