Time: 5:30 p.m. MST
TV: FSAThe Suns have the better plan. The Knicks have the better player. Neither of the teams that will meet Monday night in Madison Square Garden have had it easy this year.
Phoenix and New York each have a player capable of taking over games, but after that it comes down to team ball. Often times, that’s not enough in the NBA.
On most nights, it’s been anyone’s guess if Carmelo Anthony would have any help. But the Knicks’ superstar has his team on a four-game winning streak and in their last game, a 102-92 win against Philadelphia, former Suns forward Amare Stoudemire went for 21 points while guard J.R. Smith responded well to a benching to post 14 points and six assists.
Phoenix knows what it’s like to have a short supply of playmakers. The Suns have been struggling on both ends of the court since Eric Bledsoe went down with a knee injury that required meniscus to be removed, and as well as Goran Dragic has played, it hasn’t been enough.
The Suns have been an average team with a 104.4 offensive rating and 104.9 defensive rating since the calendar flipped to 2014. If we’re taking a wide-angle view at this team, it’s become clear they’re not much more than a .500 team without Bledsoe helping Dragic.
Can Phoenix keep New York off the offensive glass?
The Suns have given up the third highest-percentage of offensive rebounds to opponents this season and remain just below the Philadelphia 76ers in this new year. If they can’t figure out how to solve that issue against the New York Knicks, then it’s hard to remain hopeful that will change this season.
New York ranks second-to-last in rebounds per game and though they’re playing better defense to force more rebounding opportunities, their size or lack thereof should give Phoenix the rare chance to earn some second-chance points. Coming off losses to sound rebounding clubs in Memphis and then Detroit certainly was evidence the Suns need to push for improvement.
Tyson Chandler is questionable with an illness, and his status will depend on how much Phoenix can take advantage. And on that note…
Can Phoenix score points in the paint?
Without Bledsoe and Dragic finding open slashing lashes thanks to extended defenses and one another’s slashing abilities, the Suns have a jumpshot-dependent offense. The Suns have been outscored in the paint 120-72 during their last two games, and even if Chandler is ready to play, Phoenix must attack the rim to, at the very least, give their shooters more open looks.
Will Amare and J.R. make a difference?
We’d expect that Channing Frye can defend Andrea Bargnani, if only because he’s a less efficient version of Frye. But how will the Morris twins handle Stoudemire? The former Suns All-Star began the season looking like his career was over. His role has increased by necessity under coach Mike Woodson, and with that it appears the creaky knees have been lubricated enough to make an impact.
Stoudemire is going to put up a lot of shots, and the Suns’ bench can’t afford to give up offensive rebounds or Anthony to get any more help.