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 bywill 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.