Preview: New York Knicks (20-8) at Phoenix Suns (11-17)

New York Knicks 99, Phoenix Suns 97



PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns hung tight with the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday for a quarter and a half before being blown out by 28 over the course of the next quarter and a half in an easy Clippers victory.

The Suns will get another chance at an elite home win Wednesday night when the New York Knicks come to town for what could be a letdown game for them after losing a hard-fought game against the Lakers yesterday on Christmas Day.

“We’ve got New York coming in here now, so obviously we’ve got to be ready for them,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. “They’re a great team with three-point shooters to spread the floor and probably the most efficient scorer in the NBA in Carmelo so we’ll be tested there, too, but I don’t think we’ve had a setback. We’ve tried to do the right things and tried to have the rotations, but when you’re going against great players it becomes really tough.”

By saying there was no setback, Gentry to me seemed to be saying the Suns just ran into a really good team playing its best ball, and once they got rolling there wasn’t much Phoenix could do to stop the mighty Clippers. Now granted the Suns committed a few stupid turnovers that can’t happen if they want to upset a good team, but when the talent deficit is such they essentially need to catch an elite team on an off night to upset them. That certainly wasn’t the case on Sunday night.

The hope with the Knicks is that they could be beatable on any given night when their long balls are not falling, but unfortunately for Phoenix no team defends the three-point line worse than the Suns, who are yielding crazy 40.5 percent shooting from distance. The next closest team gives up 38.7 percent shooting.

The Knicks, on the other hand, shoot the three at a 39.3 percent clip (third in the NBA) and nobody comes particularly close to making or attempting more treys than New York (11.4-for-29.1). The Knicks about hit those season averages in their first meeting with the Suns, when they took a big early lead and held off Phoenix behind 12-for-29 shooting from deep.

“Then you’ve got the Knicks who very similar to us, D’Antoni-type system where you spread them out, Melo trying to take over, Felton and Chandler do pick-and-roll, and for us it’s containing their point guard play and running them off their shooters,” Jared Dudley said. “With Melo you just try to make him work for whatever. He’s playing at an MVP level, you’re not going to stop him. You want him to shoot the worst percentage you can. Our best offense would be no turnovers and limit them to only one shot.”

Anthony ranks behind only Kobe in scoring average with 28.5 per game, and he will present a major challenge for the Suns. To that end, P.J. Tucker could be a big key as he figures to be the Suns’ best defender against him.

According to the NBA’s advanced stats site, Anthony made just 5-of-15 shots with Tucker on the floor in the first meeting but 6-of-12 when he sat. Since Melo often plays the four in space-oriented Knicks lineups, perhaps the Suns would be wise to counter with Tucker at the four as tough as it would make it for them to find time for their usual glut of power forwards.

The Suns have proven to be a decent home team if a miserable road team this season, and tonight they will get another chance to prove they can take down an elite team on their home floor after being embarrassed by the Clippers.

UPDATE: Melo, Felton out for Knicks

So much for figuring out how the Suns will defend Carmelo Anthony. Instead they will have their hands full with James White, who is getting his first start of the season. Anthony is out with a hyperextended knee and point guard Raymond Felton is also out with a sprained right pinkie.

However, Gentry isn’t exactly celebrating his team’s good fortune.

“Doesn’t matter,” he said. “They didn’t have him [Anthony] in the lineup in Miami and they won by 15. It doesn’t matter. They are a good team. Obviously, he is a great player, but they are not winning all their games because of everything that he is doing. There are other guys that have been very effective and very good players also. … There are a lot of things that still make them a good team, and that is with or without their best player.”

Tags: Carmelo Anthony

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