Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Time: 5:30 PM (PHX time)
TV: Fox Sports Net Arizona/League Pass
Radio: Arizona Sports 98.7FM / KSUN 1400AM (ES)
The Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks face off in a battle of two teams trying to create a future for themselves. Both feature new head coaches and young potential franchise stars. Neither, however, are finding consistency from their presently constructed rosters.
The New York Knicks
The Knicks’ had been treading water through their first 29 games under new head coach (and former Suns head coach) Jeff Hornacek. With high profile free agents Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah joining veteran Carmelo Anthony and wunderkind Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks were expecting to be very much in the playoff picture. And they were, hovering around .500 until a Christmas Day loss to the Boston Celtics sent them spiraling to 11th place in the Eastern Conference. They come into this game with Phoenix as losers of 12 of their last 15 games and one of the worst defenses in the NBA (6th in defensive rating).
Knicks President Phil Jackson is on his third head coach in just under 3 years with the organization. After firing Derek Fisher last season, the Knicks turned to ousted Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek to lead their march back to the playoffs after a three year absence. After a somewhat promising start in NYC, well... stop me if you heard this before:
There is also talk of friction between the front office and star Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks may consider blowing it up and moving on from Melo, but the nine time All-Star holds a no-trade clause so he’d have to approve any deal.
The Phoenix Suns
As bad as the Knicks are defensively, the Suns are even worse, holding the 5th worst defensive rating in the NBA. The Suns have failed to find consistency on either side of the ball as they also boast the seventh worst offense in the league. But there have been faint whiffs of hope wafting around the rafters of Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Devin Booker seems to have shaken off whatever funk plagued his shooting stroke for the last year or so. Book has been a scoring machine of late, pouring in at least 20 points in his last 7 games while averaging 28.7 points per game. In 2017, he’s posted shooting averages of 45.2 percent from three point range and 49.0 percent overall.
Coach Earl Watson has been giving the youth a little more burn as the playoffs seem further and further out of reach. All except Alex Len who has seen his playing time reduced in favor of a resurgent Tyson Chandler. Chandler has hauled in at least 15 rebounds in the last 6 Suns games tying a streak set by Jim Fox in the Suns’ inaugural season.
While both of these developments have perhaps made the Suns look more competitive, neither has been reflected in the win column. Phoenix has gone 3-5 in the new year and currently has the 3rd worst record in the entire NBA. Which is maybe exactly where the franchise wants to be for the second half of the season: playing better basketball, but not winning enough to jeopardize a second consecutive top 5 pick.
Prediction: Last time these two teams met, Phoenix needed overtime to win. This time, I think New York (and the city’s night life) gets it done in regulation: 105-99.