The Phoenix Suns have been embarrassed by 40 points against a team that started 0-8 and have dropped a nail biter to a squad that had lost six in a row and been known to choke such games away in the early going.
Now they must travel to New York for an early 10 a.m. MST tip time to face a Knicks team that leads the NBA in offensive efficiency and sits just a half game behind Miami for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
On the same afternoon that the Arizona Cardinals visit the New York Jets, the Suns will face New York’s basketball team at an unorthodox time for them. Much research has been done about how teams are at a major disadvantage when playing at a strange time in their time zone in the NFL, and that could be even more the case since the Suns rarely play afternoon games, not to mention early ones.
However, the Suns often practice at 10 a.m. Arizona time when they are at home, so their body clocks will at least be pretty accustomed to competing at this time in contrast to East Coast NFL teams playing 9 p.m. Monday Night Football games.
The Knicks would be big trouble for the Suns even with a normal 7 p.m. MST tip because of their offense that’s scoring 110.9 points per 100 possessions. With Amare Stoudemire yet to play a game this season, the key to New York’s offensive success involves Carmelo Anthony thriving as a power forward.
Carmelo plays the four in New York’s four most-used lineups, according to the NBA’s stats tool, in which the Knicks score 124.6 points per 100 possessions (in 140 minutes), 126.6 (in 75), 111.1 and 111.9. Clearly Carmelo is a nightmare matchup at the power forward position offensively, and with Tyson Chandler locking down the interior in all four of those lineups, the Knicks have been at least passable defensively in three of them and very good in one of them.
Presumably Markieff Morris will start out on Carmelo, and I don’t see that matchup going well for the Suns. But neither would starting Beasley on him, and a Scola-Carmelo pairing would be a disaster waiting to happen for the Suns on the defensive end. The Sun who figures to best neutralize Anthony is P.J. Tucker so perhaps the Suns should go small at times and play Tucker as their four to try to match the strengths of the Knicks.
For the season, Carmelo is averaging 26.1 points per game, third-best in the Association, and he’s doing it on 46.9 percent shooting, the best he’s shot since 2007-08.
I look forward to seeing how the Knicks integrate our old friend Amare when he’s healthy around Christmas time. It makes all the sense in the world for him to come off the bench, an idea he is reportedly open to. Since both are roll men, Amare is a poor frontcourt offensive fit with Chandler (96.7 offensive rating last year). Since Anthony is better as a four, that doesn’t leave a place for Amare in the starting lineup, and last year they weren’t exactly dynamic in tandem (99.1 offensive rating when both shared the floor, not what you’d expect from a so-called star offensive combo).
Kind of like Luis Scola for the Suns, Amare could anchor the Knicks’ bench and be the go-to scorer when Anthony/Chandler rest. As much sense as that seems to make to me, egos and all the drama of a big city like New York could complicate things.
Meanwhile, the Suns just need an upset in one of these next two games to at least salvage something positive from this road trip. Sitting at 1-3 against soft competition to begin the trip and with the 11-4 Knicks and 12-2 Grizzlies in their way, it looks like this roadie will be the first major step on their path to the lottery after a respectable 6-7 start to the season.
There is still time for you to enter our giveaway for two tickets to Thursday’s Suns-Mavericks tilt. To enter all you need to do is guess the score of today’s Suns-Knicks game in the comments section of the aforementioned post before tipoff. I am not eligible to win, but I’ll guess just for fun: Knicks 113, Suns 101.