New York Knicks 121, Phoenix Suns 96 — ‘Embarrassing loss’

PHOENIX – Between the 40 media members at the morning shootaround and the massive hype surrounding Amare Stoudemire’s homecoming, the Phoenix Suns’ Friday night, ESPN matchup with the New York Knicks figured to be full of intensity and excitement.

But when when the final buzzer sounded, boos rang through US Airways Center and the loudest cheers of the night came when Stoudemire’s name was announced during opening introductions.

Alvin Gentry’s post-game press conference lasted all of 90 seconds, and the locker room was filled with silence and a host of “I don’t know” responses after a lifeless effort.

STAT and Mike D’Antoni owned the place they used to call home like it was 2005, as Amare went for 23 and nine, Raymond Felton ripped off his first career triple-double (23 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, five three-pointers) and the Knicks drilled 17 triples on their way to a dominant 121-96 win – Phoenix’s second-worst loss of the season.

“Didn’t play well at all. I think the one thing we’ve got to do is we make progress defensively and then we take steps backwards,” Gentry said. “When we’re struggling wth our shot we’ve got to be able to guard guys defensively so there’s not that kind of separation. We didn’t do that and the end result is an embarrassing loss.”

While Stoudemire and Felton lived up to the hype that has New York City alive again, the Suns showed why they’ve become an NBA afterthought through 34 games. Thanks to porous rebounding – the Knicks won the battle 59-34 — and a non-existent offense, the Suns have now lost 11 of their last 14 games.

Giving up over 50 percent shooting from the field and three-point land is clearly an area of concern, but most of the Knicks’ scoring came as a result of a stagnant Suns offense.

In the past when the Suns would give up three after three, they’d at least bounce back with a barrage of threes and a resurgence to make a game out of it. Not this Phoenix team.

Using their 11th different starting lineup of the season – Steve Nash, Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, Grant Hill, Josh Childress — the Suns failed to reach 100 points for the fourth consecutive game, which is the first time that’s happened since December of 2005.

When asked about if he could have expected such a drop-off in offensive production, Nash said, “No, not really. It’s been a surprise.”

They’re no longer the league’s top offense, but rather an imbalanced roster with no true No. 1 option, that shot 42.7 percent from the field and 6-of-24 from three against a Knicks team that surrenders 106.5 points per game (28th in the NBA).

They looked stagnant for the better part of the first half, settling for contested jumper after contested jumper, resulting in 16-of-40 shooting and a 55-45 deficit at halftime.

“I think we lost our confidence because all of their balls were going in and ours weren’t, and it spiraled and we’ve got to just fight through that and be tougher,” Nash said.

Even thought they struggled early on, the Suns were still more than in the game to start the third quarter, but the Knicks changed that quickly against another new Suns lineup — Hakim Warrick started the second half at center instead of Childress.

New York made 10 of its first 13 shots in the quarter, including four threes – two by Felton and two by Shawne Williams – to take a 77-54 lead with 6:58 remaining in the third. Although the Knicks got hot, it came as a result of a four-minute Suns drought where they failed to score a single point.

Vince Carter scored five quick points, but that was about all the life the Suns showed for the rest of the game. They hung their heads, tried to shoot themselves back into it and came up well short.

The Suns were good offensively to start the season, averaging 107.0 points per game prior to their four-game offensive disappearing act. But over the last four games they’ve averaged only 93.0 points per game against some sub-par defenses.

Hill, who did a solid job on Stoudemire keeping him out on the perimeter, had no answers for the Suns’ troubles offensively.

“I don’t know. I wish I had answers for you,” Hill said. “Maybe you guys can give me some answers. I think a lot of it is the spirit, getting defeated and deflated.”

They were dominated in every facet of the game, and continued their epic struggles on the boards against a team that ranks 21st in the league in rebounds per game and 25th in differential.

Amare was playing for more than just a win, and Felton played out of his mind, but the Suns looked lifeless with the nation watching. Not only can’t they rebound or defend, their once-electric offense is none-existent.

“We’re on that slippery slope where you’re getting in a dark hole like we don’t really hold our ground, fight and be passionate about overcoming,” Nash said.

Carter, their supposed go-to-guy, sat in the locker room with ice on his knees and his face in his hands in disappointment. Gentry candidly said, “I got to do a better job, the players got to do a better job, we’ve all got to do a better job.”

At 14-20 the Suns are searching for answers and an identity, while the Knicks are playing like the Suns of old. During shootaround Amare said, “I don’t know what happened,” when asked about the downfall of the Suns.

They aren’t quite sure either.

“I’ve tried like everybody to sort of figure out what exactly it is and I’ve probably racked my brain doing that and I’m probably mentally drained because of that,” Hill said.

  • Auggie5000

    L.O.L. at Amar’e, “I don’t know what happened”

  • Mel.

    The first couple of quarters looked like some bizarro “Suns vs. Suns” matchup, with excessive turnovers, long bombs and run-and-gun action… then it just got ugly. Especially when the Knicks started channeling Phoenix’s vibe from last season, and ran the hometown guys out of the building.

    I sense the creak of an axe preparing to fall, and–as much as I hate to say it–it’s feeling more and more like Gentry’s underneath it. The constant card-shuffling and inconsistency with building confidence in set lineups is starting to look like a likelier culprit for this godawful slump than the team itself. You can’t take pride in your play if you’ve got absolutely no clue what your role is supposed to be.

  • Jane

    Pathetic.

  • Abhijit Bordia

    I give up! Childress as a center really. Gortat playes 12 minutes after shutting down Gasol completely last game. I am in tears :(

  • MikeMeez

    Gentry is doing some pretty confusing things that’s for sure, not that he has much to work with. I’m pretty much on board to trade Nash now. What’s the point of keeping him around at this point? It’s actually worse seeing Nash be part of this disaster, just too sad to watch.

  • http://www.twitter.com/arturbm Artur Mascarenhas

    Gotta say. The worst matchup for us was D`Antoni vs. Gentry. We were beat in every single aspect of the game.

    Players and management are getting a lot of heat lately and maybe its time to look at our coaching staff.

  • Maynard

    NY – 59 rebounds, Suns – 34
    NY is very bad team in rebounding and have 25 rebounds more
    5 small guys on the court, Childress as a center
    Gortat only 13 minutes – good defensor and rebounder
    Lopez only 7 minutes (can rebound)
    Warrick only 14 minutes (206 cm, high jumping so can rebound)
    Gentry what the f…. what are you doing?
    This is so pathetic!!!

  • Lloyd

    Gortat needs to play 35 minutes every night.

    By the way, we probably should be taking a look at the players that the Suns may draft in the lottery.

  • Kalvo

    I’m really not like gentry as coach anymore. He put Childress at freakin center. WTF

  • Martin

    Sure Gentry makes some strange things these days … taking away confidence by shuffling everything and everybody ….

    but it’s not just his fault. this team looks like 13 individuals … every 2nd shot was a bad shot … no execution, no hear, no fight, no spirit, no this, no that … noTHING ….

    sure, Gortat should play 35 minutes, but maybe not on this team (because the style and other players don’t fit) and also because we’re not a halfcourt team …

    this team has no identity! we try to play defense but the players can’t. by trying this, WE LOST OUR OFFENSE COMPLETELY …

    I always said: I’m only willing to change the suns style to a kind of spurs style if we get a ring. if you don’t get a ring what’s the difference of losing in the 2nd or 3rd round? it’s the same. either get a ring or i want to see fun basketball for 7 months!!!

    to me it’s clear that nash will be gone, unless we win like 14 of 17 till the trade deadline. we can’t trade for defensive players like gortat and pietrus but our heart, brain and motor plays a different style of bball.

    honestly, I wouldn’t care that much anymore because it hurts to see that Nash has to experience that. trade him to a contender which is a point guard away and rebuild, to me there’s no other option anymore …

    and nobody – N O B O D Y – on this roster in untouchable!!!!

  • Martin

    just checked the standings and saw, that none of the top teams has a need for a point guard …

    so take part on the Melo-Trade, he want’s some stars around him … ok, if he gets billups, he doesn’t need nash …

    who needs him then?

  • JZ

    I started watching Magic games since JRich got traded to Orlando and I’ve acquired a liking to them more than Phoenix right now. The Magic are in an 8 game streak and have a new decent back up center in Anderson that has stepped up and can shoot the 3. I don’t get why Suns have been so bad this year and have no answer for fixing the defense and rebounding problems without changing the style of play and moving away from the SSOL style by officially trading Nash. I feel sorry for Grant, Nash, and Dudley. Grant feels so depressed in the new interviews and he and Nash are probably considering parting ways with the team once the contracts are up. Dudley will be the last fun player to watch in this team going downhill. I don’t think Carter cares that much about this season. Carter will probably keep his stats up and wait to be bought out during the off season. Pietrus will probably also up his stats and he’ll than turn down his player option and “take his talents elsewhere”. Gortat will probably be the only player from the Magic trade that be force to stay because of his contract. Frye has shown little improvement and Lopez is pretty much useless since his back injury while Dragic has shown signs of improvement, but lacks consistency. This team is turning into the Nets of last year.

  • ghost of Darko

    people can blame Gentry if they want, but Naismith & Auerbach couldn’t win with this disaster of a Suns roster. I said last summer once Sarver didn’t commit to Amar’e, he had to rebuild because PHX would no longer be competitive. instead the mind-boggling Hedo, Childress & Warwick deals were made. now Sarver brings Vinsanity. look at the clips of Vince half-assing thru the J-Rich sets which used to produce tons of easy baskets – sad and not at all surprising.

    PHX never could rebound or defend, but they could score with great efficiency. now they can’t even do that. watch the string of blowouts ensue. perhaps Sarver will hire Isiah Thomas to replace Hedo’s former agent as his next head of basketball.

  • lewis

    wow i never thought i would say this about the suns, but i hate watching this team. Vince carter can barely move, nash looks like he has given up, frye looks like a little boy who has lost his puppy, the only players on this team who looked like they had some pride are dudley and the dragon. Bench vince, get back to run and gun, if you are gonna go down, you might as well go down shooting.

  • Zak

    Okay, I’ll ask the question… could much of the problem be Gentry? There IS a lot of talent on this team but it’s not showing itself. When Gentry originally took over for Porter, the team wasn’t going anywhere and no one expected much from him or the team. The next season, Stat was back and Gentry had a great core to play around him for an entire season. This year, Stat’s gone and Nash is another year older – without a dynamic inside player to run the PNR with – and Gentry seems to be desperately trying to find a staring lineup/rotation to put up more Ws for the Suns. Is the problem the team or the coach? Probably both IMHO. Not enough talent on the team and also not a coach who can make the best of what talent he does have. I bet that Gentry will probably get the blame for this season eventually – whether he deserves it or not – and the Suns will have a new coach next season.

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