Phoenix Suns Recap: Brandon Knight Drops The Mic

Feb 25, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight (3) shoots the ball during the second half against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. The Suns won 110-96. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 25, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight (3) shoots the ball during the second half against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. The Suns won 110-96. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

Brandon Knight surveyed the defense, but he was never going to give up the basketball. Calmly bouncing the orange back and forth staring down his defender like his demise was inevitable, the shot clock nearing zero.

Finally, with six seconds left, Knight comfortably 24 feet from the basket, launched a moon shot, splash, the man with fire emoji’s for hands was already jogging back down court.

The Phoenix Suns overcame a lifeless first half and a 17 point second half deficit to beat the Denver Nuggets 114-107, with Knight’s three ball being the clincher.

Knight finished with a career high 38 points, 13 of which came in the fourth quarter to go along with an almost nonchalant 11 rebounds and six dimes.

About 80 minutes earlier, it looked like Knight might not even reach double digits as he went down with what looked to be a bad ankle injury back in the first quarter.

The injury just about summed up the Suns first half. After getting off to an early 17-11 lead, behind a quick six points from Knight, Denver ripped off an 18-0 run, capped by a deep Will Barton trey, to end the opening quarter.

The Suns livened up a little bit (in the same way corpses liven up when they turn into zombies) in the second quarter, but the youthful brilliance of Emmanuel Mudiay who finished with 25 points and five assists, kept Denver comfortably ahead for most of the period.

Phoenix normally saves its total shifts in effort and execution for new games, but tonight the team’s multiple personalities showed up on either side of the half.

That dose of preventative medicine didn’t do much for the Nuggets, as Phoenix slowly whittled away their lead, behind the steady play of Eric Bledsoe who finished with 22 points himself.

After playing possum for a couple of minutes PJ Tucker and Bledsoe worked a flawless give and go that led to PJ going up and under into a drop off for Alex Len who slammed it home, sparking an 11-3 burst that left  the Suns down by just four going into the 4th.

A deep three by Leuer early in the fourth gave Phoenix a 89-88 lead they would never relinquish and set up Knight’s best Steph Curry impersonation.

Knight scored or assisted on 27 of the Suns’ 34 fourth quarter points and tossed in three from the deep side of the pool for good measure.

Knight has gone on torrid displays of marksmanship before, but had never really been able to leverage that shooting into rim runs. At the 2:35 mark, Knight barreled towards the basket, there was no subtly, no hesitation, it almost looked like a base runner trying to steal home. Knight with his upper body almost parallel to the ground rose up with suddenly flawless posture and finished over his helpless defender.

The Milwaukee transplant has been superb all year, but tonight solidified it, no more wheeling and dealing needed, the Suns have their point guards.

What Could Have Been

It feels like a fever dream, but a couple of months ago there were serious reports that Eric Bledsoe could be shipped off to New York in exchange for the Knicks 1st rounder (because of James Dolan’s tendency to give away 1st round picks like Halloween candy trade could have only taken place after the draft). The consensus at the time was that the Suns would of taken the star of the cinematic phenomena “Straight Out of Guangdong” Emmanuel Mudiay.

Bledsoe’s been playing out of his mind and you’d be tough to find a Suns fan upset that Ryan McDonough didn’t pull the trigger, but at least for a half (and again in the game’s closing minutes) Mudiay gave the Phoenix faithful a taste of what could have been.

Mudiay hit 18 points within the opening minutes of the second half, consistently breaking down the Suns lethargic group of perimeter defenders and either utilizing his strong frame to finish at the bucket or contorting his body in mid-air to find a rim runner.

At age 18 Mudiay already changes pace like a seasoned pro and plays with an unselfishness that’s straight up enjoyable to watch. It’s scary to think Phoenix could be going against this guy for the next 15 years.

Eastern Europe In The House!

After struggling to start the season, Len has quietly been really good over the last couple of games.

Tonight was the culmination of those efforts. First the Ukrainian big did a great job of carving out position under the basket, something he’s been working hard at in practice, to take a nice pass from Tucker and flush it home. He wasn’t done. Len nailed an elbow jumper, forced Darrell Arthur into a tough miss on the other end that turned into a Bledsoe three and drained another mid-range beauty a few possessions later. Len does that stuff in practice all the time, in year three it’s nice to see him execute it in a close game.

Mirza Teletovic also had himself a night scoring 15 points in just 21 minutes. I’m going to have more on this later in the week, but Telly’s been frustrated with his lack of playing time, making the fair case that he can’t shoot himself into rhythm if he doesn’t play, tonight he got the time and provided a couple of sky high bombs to justify Jeff Hornacek’s faith. When Bledsoe and Knight are on the floor with Telly , it feels like a game changing run is just one shot away.

Let’s Get Weird

Without checking lineup statistics, I think I can safely say that the five-man group of Bledsoe-Booker-PJ-Leuer-Len hasn’t been used this season. When Hornacek trotted out the motley crew, it was love at first sight.

All five guys can shoot to some degree or another, the precense of Booker and Leuer in particular (unintentional I swear), totally open up the floor for Bledsoe to carve through.

A year after watching the offense look like it was stuck in a enclosed plot of quicksand, that type of spacing is truly a sight for sore eyes.

On top of that net cleaning, PJ, Len and Bled provide stifling defense on the other end, and most importantly all of these guys are unselfish and smart with the basketball.

They keyed a big third quarter run, but more importantly this group showed that Hornacek is finally figuring out the optimal ways to utilize his depth.