Preview: Phoenix Suns (4-9) at New York Knicks (6-7)


Phoenix Suns 91, New York Knicks 88

Suns

Knicks

The Phoenix Suns will meet up with Amare Stoudemire and his New York Knicks tonight for the first time in Year 2 following their divorce, and thus far this season neither side is benefiting from the separation.

The Suns’ offense has fallen from the ranks of the elite down to 11th at 101.4 after finishing ninth at 107.0 last season. Any offense led by Steve Nash will still be pretty good regardless of whom he’s out there with, but with Amare as his sidekick (along with a host of other dynamic scorers) the Suns’ offense put up historic numbers over the years.

Former Suns head coach and current Knicks boss Mike D’Antoni is known for fielding explosive offenses, but it just isn’t happening for New York thus far in the early going. The Knicks, fifth in scoring efficiency last season, have plummeted all the way down to 22nd at 97.6 per 100 possessions. Their shooting is to blame, as the Knicks have hit just 41.7 percent of their shots (26th).

Amare and Carmelo Anthony have spent parts of the year banged up yet D’Antoni used to just roll out the ball and have at least a top-10 offense so the Knicks are certainly underachieving in that regard.

Be it an early season lesson in small sample size (which the Suns’ 24th-ranked defense knows all too well) or an indication of real improvement, New York’s defense has actually become the strength of the squad. The ‘Bockers rank 12th in that department, allowing 99.1 per 100, and Tyson Chandler must deserve lots of credit for that as the Amare-Carmelo pairing doesn’t exactly scream out defensive powerhouse to anyone.

The Knicks enter this one cold like the Suns having lost three in a row after seemingly turning things around with four previous victories in succession. Their losses in Memphis and Oklahoma City were utter thrashings before late runs made the final scores respectable.

Amare has been particularly horrid during the losing streak, averaging 10.0 points and 3.6 boards on 36.4 percent shooting (12-for-33) while playing just 24.6 minutes per game due to fouls and garbage time. Carmelo sprained his ankle in the third quarter of the Memphis contest and missed the Oklahoma City game before coming back to score 33 points in 39 minutes against Orlando on Monday. Anthony is dealing with a left wrist injury as well that’s causing him to tweak his shot.

The Knicks must be disappointed by their struggles in light of the fact that their opponents boast a .414 winning percentage, which puts them 26th in the league in strength of schedule.

They get another scheduling break tonight facing a Suns team that not only has struggled at both ends of the floor during different parts of this season but is also playing a back-to-back after flying halfway across the country last night.

In their two previous back-to-backs the Suns have gotten flattened in Oklahoma City and beaten by a bad Nets squad on their home floor. With that kind of hectic travel schedule while playing their third game in four nights in a different area of the country you could almost chalk this one up to a likely scheduling loss if not for the fact the Suns don’t need help from the schedule to lose these days.

On the bright side, the Suns did not spend last night in New York, sometimes a bigger hindrance to playing in peak form than a game the night before, so at least they have that going for them entering another matchup against a fired-up Stoudemire intent on showing the Suns what they are missing.

Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire

  • shazam

    michael you have a tough job this year…youre a fantastic writer..but the subject matter (the suns) is a waste of time…just cant polish a turd

  • Cam

    @Shazam
    In fact you can polish a turd. It was on Mythbusters. You can also polish a hammer. See what I did there, Polish (a) Hammer, oh well, never mind. It’s going to be a long year. Go Suns.

  • http://h Sun-arc

    @shazam: I humbly argue that It is never a waste of time. The fact that you opened the page and left a comment is proof of that.

    Our team looks really bad right now, but they are capable of much better. I hope they start to gel tonight. If they don’t, and the Knicks stay flat, it could be the battle of the uglies. Gortat vs chandler should at least be interesting.

    Hypothetically speaking, if we were to trade Nash (and maybe hill) to NYC, what deal would ever be worth taking from them? What do they have to offer besides shumpert and Douglas? Anyone have any ideas on this?

  • shazam

    there is a rumor in the ny post that the knicks want to get rid of stoudamire..trade nash and hill for him….bwahahahahaha

  • shazam

    actually id take a polished turd for nash and hill just to get them out of here so we can work in the new players…and maybe lose more games and get a better lottery pick..hell this makes so much sense ill just take a turd for them…hold the polish please

  • Scott

    I give advice to Gentry all the time … and here’s another piece of advice. ;)

    If Hill can’t keep up with Carmelo, be careful about trying Warrick on him. Carmelo is likely to respond to the challenge posed by his fellow Orangeman and try to shoot the lights out.

    If Hill needs help, it might be time to reach into the bench and pull out Childress. Childress plays good isolation defense, and Carmelo is not exactly known for his assists.

  • JZ

    Nash, Hill, Frye to Miami for Bosh, Chalmers, and miller.

  • shazam

    @sun arc just because we comment doesnt mean its a good use of time

  • Scott

    @Sun-arc -

    Actually, I think Gortat vs Chandler is a waste. We first saw Gortat in a game against the Magic when Amare had successfully put Howard into foul trouble (as he was wont to do).

    Gortat came out as the unheralded sub that no one had ever seen. He emerged from the dark end of the bench, blinking in the bright lights of the open court. And he proceeded to spur a Magic comeback against the Suns, by essentially shutting Amare down.

    So I want to see Gortat shut Amare down again, but I don’t want to see Gortat at center and Frye or Morris on Amare. That will just be setting the Suns up for abuse, so far as I can see.

    As you might expect, I’d like to see Gortat played against Amare, and Lopez on Chandler. I don’t think Frye is up to playing Chandler at the moment.

    I think Frye is best off right now playing C on the 2nd unit and building up his confidence by dominating there. Like Dudley, I see Frye as being mainly a strong 2nd unit player, and not a starter, except in a pinch due to injury.

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    Gambo indicated on his radio program this morning that the Knicks will probably wait and sign Nash to a mid-level exception next season.

  • A-Game

    Another blowout is looming folks!

  • Mel.

    “Gambo indicated on his radio program this morning that the Knicks will probably wait and sign Nash to a mid-level exception next season.”

    Frankly, I find that funny as hell. NYK’s become something akin to the nineties’ version of the Dallas Mavericks (J-CUBED!) or the Atlanta Hawks; a team front-loaded with players who are exceptionally good at doing what they do, but whose ability to jell in any identifiable sense (Or at least enough to actually contend for anything) is absolutely ZERO-SUM.

    As much as we rankle the state of the Suns, I can’t imagine a crappier fate as a fan than seeing your floundering franchise manage to team-jack the competition for a supposed “Big Three,” who then proceed to get kicked around by various mediocre squads and show absolutely no signs of being a threat for anything but the seventh seed… again.

    However, getting back to the mid-level Nash signing (Which is going to work brilliantly with Melo on the floor, along with STAT and Chandler; talk about the worst possible fit for what Steve does best), it makes me at least admire the Knicks’ approach to becoming relevant again:

    “Dammit, we got STAT and barely bumped our win-loss to a three-game improvement over the previous numbers. Then we got Melo, and it barely made a dent. Now we’ve got Chandler at a steal, and can pretend like we’ve got a “Big Three” of our own, but we STILL aren’t actually winning any games…”

    “So, what are you thinking? New coach?”

    “No, that can’t be it. We need Steve Nash.”

    “Uh, we had a talented point guard in Chauncy Billups, and we basically threw him to the…”

    “NO. WE NEED STEVE NASH. NO TEAM IN THE LEAGUE HAS A BIG FOUR. IF WE CAN GET A BIG FIVE, MAYBE WE CAN GET THAT THIRD SEED AND THE PAPERS WILL STOP MOCKING US.”

    “Um. Okay, but… the Celtics still have a Big F-”

    “NAAAAAAAAAAAAASH~!!!!!”

  • steve

    I don’t know why, and I’m not sure it can really be explained, but the Knicks seem to be doomed. Can anything go right for that franchise?

    And, I’m no expert on the CBA, but wouldn’t the mid-level exception be a massive cut for Nash? Something like $10.5M to $7M? I think someone is going to be willing to pay Nash more than the mid-level, especially if he continues to lead (or be among the leaders) the league in assists, FT%, and TS%.

    PS – It feels good to talk about basketball again.

  • Scott

    Nice to see that Gentry started Price. Of course, Gentry is always concerned that D’Antoni is going to kill him with small ball, so he changes the lineup to reflect that. ;)

    He also started Morris, no doubt to the joy of many here. While I don’t mind Gentry starting Morris, I think it’s too soon, and I wasn’t surprised that Amare quickly got Morris out on fouls.

  • Mel.

    ^That seemed really, REALLY weird. Like either Gentry was attempting to baptize the kid by fire, or make some statement on pushing the potential PF of the future against the PF of the past… not that Alvin’s brain ticks like that, but one would have to assume that Channing knows STAT’s game better than ‘keef does (and did, gauging from how things started off).

    Also, it’s a bit disheartening to see that Amar’e looks like he’s playing his best ball of the season, at least in the early running. Just flips the script from his limitations being the alleged result of Mike D’s “floor spacing” or “nagging injuries,” and suggests that it’s the same old issue with only bringing an aggressive, hustle-heavy approach to a game when it’s actually got a personal facet to it.

    But we’ll see. So far, it’s been a channel-flipper; sorta like some CPU vs. CPU auto-game in 2K12, with both sides playing some version of the Suns and the difficulty set on Mediocre.

  • shazam

    @ mel….im just guessing as usual but maybe gentry like the rest of us new stat was going to come out hard (because of our history) so coach started his best pf defender on him and at the same time make it very clear to frye that his starter spot is in trouble…stat did come out as expected but faded as expected…im telling you stst is not that healthy this year..proof sarver was right on that one…shhhhhh dont tell steve i wrote that..im still having to administer tough love to that young man

  • Scott

    Actually, I think Frye played harder than he has recently because the game was in NY. I’d forgotten that he used to be a Knick (drafted by them), and that he was born there. There may have been questions from local reporters, etc., a familiar vibe from MSG and so on that got him going.

    But regardless of the reason, it was good to see his competitive fire back. I’ve not lost faith in him; the main reason I want him to play with the 2nd unit is that it would help both him and the 2nd unit. The 2nd unit has struggled to score, and Frye could stand to have more touches and slightly easier opponents to get into a groove.

    Shannon Brown played better as the game wore on and the intensity increased. Sometimes players need something to turn them on, like getting some touches on offense, or getting hit, or something, and it could be that Brown is unconsciously keyed to not focus and drift a bit until play becomes more intense.

    Looking at the box score, it’s obvious the Suns would not have won without the offense of Nash. He scored 26 and the next closest points were 14 from Brown and Hill. Gortat only had 11.

    One amazing stat of the game is that even though Gortat locked up Amare (7 of 22 in nearly 40 min), and Hill locked up Carmelo (5 of 22 in nearly 40 min), the Suns STILL barely squeaked by the Knicks, with the game decided only in the very last few seconds.

    That’s because Amare also made 9 of 10 from the line, and Fields and rookie Shumpert shot a high percentage: Fields was 6 of 12 for 17 pts, and Shumpert was 8 of 14 for 20.

    So 37 points for the Knicks came from a relatively unexpected source, and the Suns just didn’t score much aside from Nash, Hill, and Brown.

    The +/- leaders in this game were Gortat and Brown with +6, and the losers were Price (-5) and Lopez (-3), so the game was kept pretty close regardless of who was on the court.

  • Scott

    Oh, and while the Suns were somewhat more aggressive tonight, on offense and defense, the numbers are not yet where we’d want them on free throws.

    The Suns were 12 of 16 from the line, while the Knicks were 20 of 30.

    So the Knicks went to the line nearly twice as many times as the Suns.

    Frye picked up 5 fouls and Lopez picked up 4, a good indication the Knicks were attacking the hoop.

  • steve

    SARVER wasn’t right. It’s not his job to evaluate players.

  • Scott

    @Mel -

    The owner of the Knicks is ultra wealthy. He completely did not mind spending all that money on the teams Isiah built. I suspect he views $20 million dollars as “a number in the low two figures.”