Phoenix Suns 91, New York Knicks 88 — Suns win battle of the exes


Steve Nash, Grant Hill, and Shannon Brown celebrate Brown's late 3-pointer. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Steve Nash outdueled ex-teammate Amare Stoudemire and the Phoenix Suns got a hard-fought victory Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, 91-88. Nash scored 26 points, dished out 11 assists, and hit six free throws down the stretch to seal the game, which was tight all the way to the final buzzer.

After taking the night off defensively against Chicago, the Suns team defense came roaring back in New York. Carmelo Anthony was held to just five points through the first three quarters and ended with just 12 for the game. All the credit for Anthony’s struggles from the field goes to Grant Hill who spent all of his team-high 38 minutes attached to Carmelo’s hip.

Hill said on the Suns’ postgame show about his defense on Carmelo, “I just tried to make him work…We really just defensively tried to make it difficult for him.”

“We won ugly,” Hill added. “That’s not normal for the Phoenix Suns historically. The main thing is we got the win.”

The Suns double-teamed Carmelo several times with Gortat. Their defensive rotation looked great as there was always a defender near the otherwise open Tyson Chandler. The Knicks were not able to skip or swing the ball for perimeter jumpers effectively, shooting only 4-for-15 from beyond the arc.

Stoudemire also struggled from the field due in large part to the Suns extremely physical play inside. Stoudemire was held to 7-for-22 from the floor, but did convert 9-of-10 from the free throw line.

At times, the Suns’ interior defense looked like the Knicks teams of old with Anthony Mason and Patrick Ewing bludgeoning anyone who came into the lane. The tone was set early by Channing Frye who took Tyson Chandler to the floor with a hard foul eight minutes into the first quarter. The 7-footer trio of Frye, Gortat, and Robin Lopez handed out 10 personal fouls and had all eight of the Suns’ blocks. No surprise, New York had 14 more free throw attempts than Phoenix.

Marcin Gortat played well on the offensive end of the floor as well, recording his 6th straight double-double with 11 points and 12 boards on 5-for-13 shooting. Nash and the Suns looked for Gortat early and often with mixed results. Gortat had five turnovers in the game and at least two of Nash’s three turnovers were the result of a pass intended for the big man from Poland.

Gortat’s scoring confidence is still building as the season progresses. Thus far in the year, two things are clear. First, his jump shot is much better from the center of the floor than it is from the baseline. Second, he needs to learn to attack away from double teams or attack quickly before the double can arrive if he wants to be an efficient low-post scorer. Because head coach Alvin Gentry has shown so much confidence in the center, it is likely he will be able to make these adjustments and continue to improve.

One of the reasons the Suns were able to find Gortat open so much was because of the Knicks’ defense on screens. On both pick-and-rolls and off-the-ball screens, the Knicks switched, allowing the Suns to attack mismatches. The Suns were able to convert many of these chances into points, although Knicks’ rookie point guard Iman Shumpert did have four steals, most of them stripping Phoenix big men he had switched on to because of a screen.

Shumpert had a great night offensively as well, scoring 20 points in the game and 12 in the fourth quarter alone including a pair of threes late that kept the Knicks close. Shumpert showed his speed early in the game, so Nash played well off of him, allowing Iman to shoot over the outstretched arms of the Suns’ point guard.

Shumpert’s backcourt partner, Landry Fields, also had a great night. He scored 17 points, including nine in the third quarter. Fields was able to use his size to and speed to score pretty much at will against the not-so-great defense of Shannon Brown and Ronnie Price. Price got the start at shooting guard in place of Jared Dudley.

Markieff Morris also got his first start as a pro in place of Channing Frye. Coach Gentry told Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic about the lineup moves, “It’s not really a demotion. We went back and looked and right now we’re No. 27 in the NBA in second-quarter points. We’ve got to get that unit to the point where we’re at least playing even and not playing from behind.”

Morris logged only five minutes in the game. He picked up two early fouls guarding Amare and did not return because of illness. Frye was the power forward on the floor to start the second half.

Frye’s shooting stroke looked great as he connected on 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.

The Suns were able to keep pace in the tightly-contested fourth quarter thanks in large part to Shannon Brown scoring nine of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. Brown got an incredible shooter’s bounce on a corner three which put the Suns up 85-80 with 35 seconds left. From there Nash’s free throws sealed the win despite long threes by Anthony and Shumpert on the other end.

Hill contributed offensively for the Suns in addition to his stout defense. After struggling mightily in the first half with his shot, Hill ended the game with 14 points on 6-for-15 shooting.

The final score seems quite odd when you consider that both teams were among the league leaders in offensive efficiency last season. Former Suns coach Mike D’Antoni certainly has some work to do as the Knicks have lost four straight games. The Suns, on the other hand, snapped a five-game losing streak and got a much-needed win on this incredibly taxing five-game road trip against five of last season’s playoff teams.

If the Suns can bring this level of physicality and defense to Boston on Friday, they could easily pull out another win. If not, it won’t matter if Steve Nash goes for 20-plus points for the fourth game in a row, the Suns will still come up wanting.

And 1

  •  Carmelo Anthony started the game just six points away from 15,000 for his career. He didn’t eclipse that plateau until the 1:47 mark of the fourth quarter.
  • Michael Redd did not see any action in the game. It was his first DNP-CD since his season debut against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Tags: Grant Hill Marcin Gortat Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Recap Steve Nash

  • shazam

    fun game to watch..hope morris is better soon

  • sun-arc

    I only got to see the fourth quarter, but it was worth watching- with the exception of some bizarre non-calls. Maybe it was that way all night, but some were really hard fouls. How does a 7footer go up for a shot, get his in his chest and end up on the floor with no call?

    The suns really tried to make their fouls count, though. I like that. No wussie fouls.

    Robin played really well in the 4th, blocking shots, getting in the lane, even a rebound or two. He wasn’t backing down. And he had a couple of nice baskets. I like them finding him in the lane. He even hit a nice 20 footer as a trailer.

    Gortat and Nash looked great. Love those guys.

    and Brown is taking better shots, flowing better, and getting out in transition better. he may work out in the end. I’m ok with him starting over dudz right now. Not sure how Price did, as his stats show nothing, but I heard they were playing good defense in the first half, and he was a good part of that.

    So, I was for starting Price over dudz in this one, but, seriously, we can’t bring telfair off the bench. He needs to stay there. He just isn’t playing well at all. I’d rather Brown starts the 2 and Price is the back up behind Nash.

    and I hope morris gets better quick. I’d like to see him the starting lineup to play Frye with Dudz, HAK, lopez and price as the second unit. I think they could be good . And Morris and brown could be better with Nash (who isn’t)?

    Everyone else needs to get on board.

  • Scott

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding something … but is Ryan describing the play where Frye contested a hoop by Chandler and ended up landing hard on the court as “taking Tyson Chandler to the floor with a hard foul?” Frye is the only one who landed on the floor.

    That makes me think maybe somebody didn’t actually watch the game, but wrote their article based on video clips, play-by-play text, and the box score.

  • http://ValleyoftheSuns Ryan

    @Scott
    That is a super good point. Just rewound the game to check to make sure you were right. Wrote it down wrong in my game notes. (I have terrible handwriting.) Good catch my friend.

  • Scott

    BTW … former Suns player Pietrus made 4 three pt shots for the Celtics in the game they played against the Raptors.

    Rondo injured his wrist in the game, but x-rays were negative and he doesn’t expect to be out,

    The Suns play the Celtics in their next game, on Friday.

  • Scott

    @Ryan -

    Just so you know, I’ve got my eye on you. ;)

  • shazam

    why do you think redd didnt play?…too new and out of shape for a back to back?… hasnt made a shot since moby dick was a minnow?gentry forgot he was on the roster?…mark my words suns fans..redd w/ be a starter with in a month

    • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

      Purely speculating because I’m obviously not in New York, but I would assume they want to be cautious using him in back-to-backs, especially since he’s been struggling a bit. It might be a combination of that and they just wanted to try some different rotations out and in so doing he was the odd man out.

  • shazam

    @ ryan…scott has his eye on everyone until gortat/lopez start playing together

  • shazam

    :)

  • Tony

    Although an ugly win for the Suns at least they did manage to get it. It’s amazing to me that even when the Suns teams were great in the Nash era, they never got any calls. Tonight was no exception as repeatedly the Knicks were just hacking on defense but the refs made no calls.

    The Celtics aren’t play well now so hopefully the Suns can steal one in Boston and put together a little mini-streak before they lose in Dallas, then win against the Raptors, and finally lose to the Trailblazers.

  • Mel.

    It was a pretty brutal game to sit through, but the thriller ending really made the minutes worthwhile. And even if it’s purely the schadenfreude talking, this win takes the bite out of the miserable showings that led up to it; seeing STAT try to stir the pot and be the man again his old squad–and pretty much failing, at least when it mattered most–and realizing that Iman freakin’ Shumpert seems to have more restraint and a higher basketball IQ than half of the guys on NY’s roster was like a double-whipped dollop of amusing goodness.

    That, and the fact that it was Nash’s consistency and craft that delivered the game, when nobody else could. Not many players would–or COULD–take three fouls and deliver six flawless free throws to put the game away, as wild as the shootout got in the final two minutes.

  • Scott

    @shazam -

    It could also be that Redd spoke to Gentry and said, “Hey, I’m coming along slower than I thought I would. If you want to play me, fine, but I don’t want to lose games for the team.”

    @Tony -

    I was a little worried during the ending seconds that a Knick would beat up Nash and take the ball away, and the refs wouldn’t call it. Luckily the Knicks all fouled Nash overtly, with the idea of drawing the foul, and never made a move on the ball.

  • Scott

    BTW, I thought Iman Shumpert looked surprisingly good for a relatively low ranked rookie.

  • Scott

    Also BTW … in the post-game comments, Nash seems pretty clear that he sees no fall off in his game and he intends to play for several more years.

    It sounded a little bit like, “Hey, NY. I don’t know if I’ll get more years in Phoenix, but just so you know, I like NYC and I come here every summer …”

    Nothing wrong with setting up a Plan B. ;)

  • Scott

    Say … if the Suns really don’t plan to re-sign Steve, maybe they could trade him for Fields and Shumpert?

    Then the Knicks could play a star-studded lineup of Nash / Davis / Anthony / Stoudemire / Chandler.

    Fields and Shumpert would at least be young, low cost solutions for some of the holes the Suns have to fill.

  • steve

    Not saying it’s right, but if the refs are allowing the game to be ultra physical, then you can test the limits. The suns never do. They never have. If one team is being physical while the other one isn’t, it will simply appear to a ref that the physical team is trying harder, and they’ll typically give them the benefit of the doubt on calls. Regardless of how many fouls are actually committed in a game, the final tally usually ends up fairly equal no matter how much more physical one team is than the other, so it really pays to hack. It’s the defensive mentality the spurs and celtics have employed, and it has worked fairly well for them. I don’t know why the suns have never taken it for a test drive.

  • Drew

    @Scott, despite the fact that you’ve hijacked the comments section for this article :), you’ve uncovered a golden nugget. I agree with your trade idea. We’re not going to be keeping Steve in the Valley. This trade seems to make sense. He’d be very happy playing with good friends and a coach he loves in a city he loves, giving Nash the respectful parting gift from Phoenix he deserves. We get a few building pieces (and maybe a draft pick?) to build for the future.

  • Elviro (Italy)

    incredible: we won one!

  • steve

    I think Nash provides more value than Fields and Shumpert. I know they’re both young, so nothing is set in stone or anything, but I think Fields’ ceiling might be somewhere around a 16-17 PER and a WS/48 near 0.150 if he just plays intelligently. I don’t know a whole lot about him, but I honestly don’t think he can be any better than what Childress was with the Hawks (again, this coming from a very limited knowledge base). I think he’ll be a good player, but nothing special.

    Iman I’m even more clueless about. His college days suggest he’s a decent shooter with awful shot selection, and they also indicate he’s not a good passer or not interested in passing. It’s way too early to pass any kind of definitive judgment, but if Shumpert ends up being a starter in this league for more than a few years, I’d be surprised. He seems like a competent backup at best.

    Plus, how are we going to make a trade like that work with 125% rule? From what I understand, we’d have to take on a pretty sizeable contract (somewhere around $7M based on Fields’ and Shumpert’s contracts). I don’t know who the knicks have in that range exactly, but whoever it is, I don’t want them.

    It’s going to be extremely difficult to deal Nash.

  • Cam

    I looked at that trade before the game started yesterday because I was curious. It won’t work because of the salary issues. Other than the NY “big three” no one, that I can recall, has a salary over 1 mill and change per year. I also don’t think NY has many draft picks to offer over the next few years. I may be wrong about that though. Go Suns.

  • Mel.

    steve, I definitely think you’re right, but there’s also the fact that New York is probably in possession of the dumbest and most desperate front office in the entire league, right now. I don’t think there’s a deal that these dopes WOULDN’T make, if it even had a puncher’s chance of improving the team’s fortunes; last week, the local talkshow circuit was lit up with claims that the Knicks were looking to gut some talent (including STAT) in a bid to land D12.

    Compared to that, the Suns’ own dumb roster-shuffles almost seem restrained. I still feel like Nash will gut out the rest of the season as a Sun, as per his work ethic and sense of loyalty, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see New York pull some idiotic salary dump in order to sway him over other potential destinations, this summer. (Thinking of Odom getting doggy-door’d off to Dallas for a half-eaten Snickers bar and future draft considerations)

    Which is kind of a shame, because I bet they’d make that Shumpert and Fields trade in a heartbeat, if the numbers clicked. And probably sneak Amar’e into their luggage at LGA, just for good measure.

    “Yeah, he brought basketball back to NYC and laid the foundations for a major renaissance at the Garden… but what’s he done for us lately?”

  • steve

    In other news, it seems that the Suns’ incredibly minute chance of landing Russell Westbrook has completely evaporated. I heard he extended. Is that actually news, or did I just miss something a while ago?

  • Zak

    A Nash to NY trade just doesn’t work. Nash’s salary is MORE than the COMBINED salaries of EVERYONE on NY’s roster who isn’t named Carmello Anthony, Amare Stoudemire or Tyson Chandler. After those three, the next highest paid player on the Knicks is Renaldo Balkman who makes just under $1.7 mil and 9 of the 15 player they have on the roster make less than $1 mil. The salary numbers just don’t work under the rules for making trades.

  • http://ward.com Ward

    Stoudemire hasn’t “done” anything for the Knicks lately because the deal for Carmelo and the pick-up of Chandler have DESTROYED the flow on that team. Not to mention their depth.

    I am a Suns fan living in New York, and trust me, Dolan has been the one calling the shots (not Donnie Walsh, nor Grunfeld) since LeBron chose Miami over MSG. The man is a buffoon and everyone here knows he still has Zeke in his ear. I can’t believe that the Clippers are making vastly superior moves to the Knicks after all these years. Uggg…..

  • http://ValleyoftheSuns Ryan

    There is no way Nash is getting traded this year. Honoring his contract is extremely important to him. He says so in every interview he does. The Suns management would be crazy to trade him because he is the most exciting player on the team and he sells tickets.
    Where the conversation does become interesting is the offseason. If the Baron Davis experiment doesn’t work in New York (and I suspect it won’t) I think Nash could land at MSG. @Ward is right. The Knicks offensive flow is terrible, especially on nights where STAT or Melo aren’t feeling it, much less if both of them are struggling like they did last night. Nash could find some sort of harmony amongst those two. I say could not would because the Knicks may be beyond the saving graces of Nash, but if he were to sign with them, they would be exciting to watch at the very least.

  • Zak

    Actually, probably the only contender that might have the trade assets, and the desire, to make a trade for Nash might be Atlanta. At least that seems to be the best candidate for a trading partner for the Suns IF you at least want to trade Nash to a team with a shot at a title.

  • GoSuns

    @ Steve hmm… even he did I wonder what happens if okc fails in the playoffs again cause then there might be a possibility of a nash sign-and-trade to okc for westbrook

  • Tony

    Steve,

    I agree that the Suns really have never tried to be as aggressive physically as other teams but they never really had the type of physical players to do that. But regardless, I rewatched certain parts of the Suns game last night and it was ridiculous all the handchecking and holding of Nash by Shumpert and Douglas. One play in particular, Douglas was handchecking Nash, which unless I’m mistaken is an automatic foul, right in front of a ref and he didn’t make a call.

    As far as the trade you suggested, Nash for Shumpert and Fields, I don’t think that’s a good deal for NY because they would be giving up too much youth and potential. As much of a fan of Nash as I am and even though I would love to see him in NY at this point to play on a competitive team, he only has a couple years left playing at his elite level so it doesn’t make sense for NY to trade those guys for him.

  • Cam

    @steve,
    Espinoza is reporting an extension that should be in the range of around 80 mil. I agree with you, I thought he was the only free agent of that caliber that the Suns had a shot at getting. It looks like the Suns have a ton of cap space for nothing. Oh well. Go Suns.

  • steve

    I’m totally in aggreement about how ridiculous foul enforcement is in the NBA. However, I do think they do a better job than college or high school refs at calling the fouls that do occur.

    I attend quite a few high school basketball games to film and photograph, in one particular matchup I was at last week, I kid you not, there must have been 70 turnovers between the two teams. That’s not an exaggeration. If anything, there were more turnovers than that. Each team turned it over more than once a minute. Anyways, over half of these “turnovers” were obvious fouls. PG gets tripped to the ground by the hedge? Travel. You can hear the slap of a hand on an arm from the stands? All ball. Reach in slapping downard, the ball goes up in the air on an attempted bounce pass (almost every time the ball goes up when the handler is trying to bring it down and the defender is slapping downard it means the defender hit the arm not the ball)? No call. Kid gets blatantly hit in the face, falls to the ground grabbing his eye? No blood, no foul.

    There is so much grabbing, pushing, shoving, jostling, etc etc etc, in amateur basketball it makes me hate it. Pro basketball has its own downsides, too, and even though I think they’re better at calling those types of fouls, they’re still awful. Officiating in general is AWFUL for basketball at all levels, and I don’t think it will ever get better.

  • Cam

    Sorry, not Espinoza, Espn. Stupid iPad auto correct. Go Suns.

  • Scott

    @Drew –

    I’m not entirely sure what the rules are on cash and picks in a trade. However, let’s say there’s a 3 way trade with NY, CLE, and PHX. NY passes CLE a bundle of cash for a first round pick, and then delivers that pick, plus Fields and Shumpert, to PHX for Nash.

    Now I don’t mean to press this issue too hard. I can easily see Nash staying in Phoenix, and I don’t mind him staying if he’s really in shape to play for several more years. Also, I don’t know if Fields and Shumpert are the exact pieces the Suns would want.

    But the Knicks have cash to burn. The Cavs have 3 first round picks coming to them this year, on top of the two high picks they had last year. If Brown doesn’t work out or doesn’t re-sign with the Suns, and ditto for Redd, there will be at least one opening at SG, and both Fields and Shumpert not only can hit 3s (at least they did in that one game), but they already know pretty much the system used in Phoenix. According to rumor, both guards were on the Suns’ radar in their respective drafts.

    So … (stroking imaginary goatee) … this type of trade could make sense …?

  • Scott

    The main difficulty for the Knicks, I suppose, is the cap. NY is willing to pay luxury tax, and the new CBA rules phase in over the next couple seasons, so I’m not sure but there may be a way for them to absorb Nash’s big contract, and it might be easier for them to do it sooner rather than later.

  • Zak

    It’s NOT the salary cap that keeps the Nash to Knicks trade from happening, it’s the trade restrictions. Yeah, the Knicks might love having Nash and might be willing to trade both Fields and Shumpert for him but they can’t. Nash makes $11,689,062 this year and Fields and Shumpert combined make only $2,325,316. All trades have to be of roughly equal value in terms of salaries and those numbers aren’t even close. Even if the Knicks are willing to go over the cap to add Nash, the trade would just not be allowed by the NBA.

  • Scott

    @Zak -

    But the Knicks can add picks purchased from other teams, which would count to balance the salaries in trade.

    Furthermore, my understanding is that those trading rules are basically just guidelines. The league office has final say on all trades, and it can choose to be flexible or not.

    An unprotected first round pick is probably worth about $5 million in salary …?

  • KeZ

    Damn….I really want Westbrook in a Phx uniform! He´s a hardheaded, dont take no shit from anybody type of player! We kinda need that toughness here in Phx! To bad he signed an extension……