Posted by Jeffrey Sanders on March 29th, 8:00 am
PHOENIX — New York Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire returned home to US Airways Center on Friday night to play in front of his old fans for just the second time since he bolted Phoenix for the Big Apple after the 2010 NBA playoffs. Stoudemire’s only other appearance in Arizona came on January 7, 2011, when he scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to help the Knicks defeat the Suns, 112-96.
On Friday night, the result wasn’t the same, but the numbers for STAT were close to similar. Stoudemire posted his 12th straight double-digit scoring game with 19 points and six rebounds in the Suns’ 112-88 win. The former MVP candidate showed flashes of his past athleticism with some strong moves to the basket, but his strong effort was hidden in his team’s sloppy play.
“We cannot make any excuses,” Stoudemire said. “We knew what they were going to do coming into tonight’s game.
“We talked about the pace, we talked about the matchups, we talked about the three-point shooters. We discussed all of this before the game, so it should not have caught us by surprise.”
What has been a surprise to some is Stoudemire’s return to relevance.
Stoudemire has turned into a high quality player for the Knicks in the month of March. It’s surprisingly because his overall numbers — 11.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game — don’t paint the picture of how well he has played these last 12 games. Since March 2, Stoudemire is averaging 16.8 points and more than six rebounds per game, including four games of scoring 20 points or more.
New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson points to Stoudemire’s return to the starting lineup as a key attribute to the sudden flip in the forward’s play.
“That has something to do with it,” Woodson said. “The fact is he can play more minutes. When a player’s minutes go up, a player’s productivity goes up, and it has been that way with Amare.”
Stoudemire had surgery on his knee over the summer and came into the season with his minutes being tightly restricted. He only topped 20 plus minutes three times in the Knicks’ first 18 games. The minutes restriction was something that Woodson has never dealt with before.
“I had no idea to be honest,” Woodson said of his expectations for Stoudemire before the season. “When Amare tells you that he can only play 10 minutes a game, that is tough.
“Those minutes have grown and we have benefitted from it. I always keep my fingers crossed with Amare.”
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Tags: Amare Stoudemire · Goran Dragic · New York Knicks · Phoenix Suns
Posted by Jeffrey Sanders on March 28th, 9:38 pm
PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns (44-29) shot, ran and dunked their way to a 112-88 victory on Friday night over the defensively uninterested New York Knicks (30-43). The win gave the Suns their sixth in a row, the second longest winning streak in the NBA, only behind the 16 straight by the San Antonio Spurs.
Suns coach Jeff Hornacek called the game their, “best overall win of the year.”
It truly was a dominant game from start to finish for the Suns. The Suns won every statistical category including a whopping 19 rebound edge on the Knicks led my Miles Plumlee’s 12 boards.
For the highlight of the game? Well, you can take your pick with that.
Any one of the multiple Plumlee dunks would be up for nomination — my vote would be his halfcourt reverse ally-opp from Eric Bledsoe, narrowly beating out his put-back one-handed slam with his off hand. Bledsoe’s clean block on the 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler is not a bad option either. Or how about the lucky fan that hit hit a half court shot, winning $77,777? It was just that kind of night for the Suns.
Guard Goran Dragic got the Suns going early by scoring 18 first quarter points, hitting all three of his three point attempts. He finished the game with 32 points, and five stitches. He received the stitches above his eye after being on the wrong end of an accidental Chandler elbow late in the second quarter.
“We tell the guys that if you play hard, which Goran does, that your going to get hurt a few times,” Hornacek said. “And that is alright, there is nothing wrong with getting a couple knocks on your head.
“That is Goran, he ran off the court because I knew he wanted to get back into the game. He played a great game and got us off to a great start.”
Dragic hit seven of his first eight shots and credited a lazy Knicks defense for the hot start.
“They were not contested shots, so I just spot up and just shoot it. I think that every time they are going to do that then I am going to have a good game,” Dragic said.
The Suns broke the game open in the second quarter thanks to an 18-3 run to close out the first half, out-running and out-hustling a Knicks team that showed disinterest for most of the first half. A quick start to the second half gave the Suns a 32-point lead, their largest of the game.
Forward PJ Tucker was pleased with the complete performance tonight.
“I told the guys, let us put a game together,” Tucker said. “I feel like this is the first game that we played from start to finish a complete game.”
The Knicks started showing some interest late in the third and cut the lead down to 17 early in the fourth quarter before a Bledsoe three and a Dragic and-one layup quickly boosted the Suns lead and catapulted them to a 12-0 run.
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Tags: Amare Stoudemire · Goran Dragic · New York Knicks · Phoenix Suns Recap
Posted by Jeffrey Sanders on March 28th, 12:29 pm
Time: 7 p.m. MST
The Phoenix Suns are getting hot just as the playoff race is heating up in the Western Conference. The team has won five straight and seven of their last eight games to put themselves in the thick of things.
Currently, five teams — the Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks — are within three games of each other in the loss column, with the Suns sitting in eighth place and just a half game ahead of the Mavericks.
The New York Knicks come to U.S. Airways Friday in a must win game themselves, as they sit just 2.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth place spot in the Eastern Conference. Suns coach Jeff Hornacek is aware of the Knicks strong play of late and is excited for a playoff atmosphere.
“They are playing well,” Hornacek said. “They won nine of last 11 and they are in the playoff push trying to get a win to make playoffs.
“It is going to be like a playoff game tonight. Carmelo (Anthony) inside and outside, great player. But their other guys are great players and they go small. Have to be ready for anything.”
The Suns and Knicks are both in contrasting situations at this point of the season. Yes, both teams are in a battle to make the playoffs, but the pressure that both teams are facing is what diversifies the two teams.
“They are in a different situation because they feel pressure and we do not feel pressure,” Suns guard Goran Dragic said. “Nobody expected us to be here. In the beginning of the season people said we would win 15-16 games and we are just enjoying every minute we have.
“Of course we want to make playoffs though, that is our goal.”
For the Suns to maintain their pole position in the Western Conference race, it will be crucial for them to win the next two games against the Knicks and at the Lakers on Sunday night. After that Lakers game, the Suns close out the season playing six of their final eight against Western Conference playoff teams, five of those coming on the road.
Let’s look at some keys for the game.
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Tags: New York Knicks · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Preview
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on March 27th, 4:37 pm
The numbers will support what your eyes already see. And that’s if you couldn’t figure out any correlation to go with the Phoenix Suns’ five-game winning streak or its seven wins in the last eight games.
Eric Bledsoe’s return from knee surgery and his re-assimilation into the starting lineup has produced these results. Not only does his presence in the starting lineup give back coach Jeff Hornacek one of the elite lineups in the NBA this season as SB Nation’s Drew Garrison finds, but the young point guard’s return has changed Phoenix’s entire complexion.
From the time Bledsoe went down with his meniscus injury at the end of 2013, the Suns inserted Gerald Green into the starting lineup. While that didn’t lead to much drop-off offensively, if any, lacking a ball-hawking point guard to disrupt offenses at the beginning of shot clocks proved to be perhaps the biggest change for the Suns.
Phoenix’s defensive rating from Jan. 1 to March 11, just before Bledsoe’s return, was 106.3, which during that span ranked 18th in the league. In nine games since Bledsoe’s return, the Suns have allowed just 100.6 points per 100 possessions, a major improvement that during that time has them just behind, in order, Chicago, Indiana, Memphis, San Antonio and the Los Angeles Clippers.
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Tags: Eric Bledsoe · Phoenix Suns Analysis
Posted by Ryan Weisert on March 26th, 7:39 pm
The Phoenix Suns built a 25-point lead then watched John Wall almost single-handedly tear it down. The Suns were totally powerless to stop, hinder, or even mildly bother the Wizards’ speedy superstar, but they pulled together down the stretch and held on for a 99-93 victory. This was Phoenix’s fifth win in a row and fourth straight win on the road. The Suns are once again tied with the Mavericks for the final spot in the West and could rise to 7th if the Grizzlies lose tonight in Utah.
This was a game of runs. Phoenix built its lead with a 31-9 stretch that spanned the end of the second quarter and the first half of the third. At that point in the game, the Suns looked to be in complete control. Then John Wall remembered he is the fastest player in the NBA. Over the first 31 minutes of this game, Eric Bledsoe and the Suns had held Wall to just five points. But with his team headed for a blowout, Wall put the squad on his back and turned on the afterburners. He scored 24 points down the stretch, most of them coming on layups where he had blown by at least two Phoenix defenders. With Wall spurring them on, the Wizards slashed the Suns’ lead all the way down to three points with 1:30 left to play. With all the momentum favoring Washington, and the Suns starring down the barrel of a complete choke job loss, Eric Bledsoe hit a 30-footer as the shot clock expired to put Phoenix up six points with a minute play. Not to be outdone by his former backup at the Kentucky, Wall, who hadn’t been stopped on a drive in over a quarter, settled for a three and missed. The Suns grabbed the rebound and got the ball on to Gerald Green who drew the foul and hit both free throws, effectively ending Washington’s comeback hopes. Wall was incredible in this game, but he opted for a three when he had scored eight straight points going to the basket. Not the best decision.
There was a lot of good and bad in this game from both teams. For more analysis, let’s answer our three preview questions.
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Tags: Eric Bledsoe · Goran Dragic · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Recap · Washington Wizards
Posted by Ryan Weisert on March 26th, 9:03 am
Time: 4:00 pm MST
The 1971-72 Phoenix Suns won 49 games and missed the playoffs. Now that was at a time when the NBA had fewer teams and fewer playoffs spots, but nevertheless, that same fate could easily befall this year’s Suns. Phoenix was supposed to put the Dallas Mavericks in their rear view last night, but Dirk and Co. had other ideas. Their overtime win over the Thunder put Dallas back ahead of Phoenix by a half game for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. The Suns aren’t quite in “every game is a must win game” territory yet, but they can certainly see it rapidly approaching on the horizon. In the modern era of 16 playoff teams, only the 2007-08 Golden State Warriors have missed the playoffs with 48 wins. That scenario seems destined to be repeated by the Suns, Mavericks, or Grizzlies this year. If the Suns want to avoid being the odd man out, they have to take care of business in winnable games, like tonight’s matchup with the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards have lost three of four and are currently sixth in the Eastern Conference. Starting power forward Nene has been out for a month and is still a week or more away from returning to practice. John Wall has kept the team afloat in his absence averaging a near double-double in the month of March (19 points and 9.8 assists per game.) He’s also knocking down 49% of his threes this month. Former Sun Marcin Gortat has been great as well, averaging over 13 points and 11 boards per game over the last month. He has dealt with some back problems recently, but they haven’t seemed to bother him the last few games. Though Washington hasn’t beaten a Western Conference playoff team since the first week of February, they are not a squad the Suns can afford to overlook. The Wizards took down Phoenix in Phoenix back in January precisely because the Suns underestimated them. Phoenix was coming off their first win over Indiana and got caught napping. With their playoff hopes hanging by a thread, the Suns can’t afford to sleep on anyone. For more on this game, let’s ask three preview questions.
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Tags: Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Preview · Washington Wizards