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Preview: Suns shoot for three straight versus Knicks

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With a win in New York the Phoenix Suns will be on a three-game winning streak. This is not a drill.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What: New York Knicks host the Phoenix Suns

When: 5:30 p.m. AZ

Where: Madison Square Garden

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


The Phoenix Suns are playing their best basketball of the 2018-19 season. Perhaps that’s not saying much when the team is a dreadful 6-24, but you’re alive during the worst stretch of Suns basketball. You’re allowed to drink it in.

Dallas was dispatched last Thursday, Minnesota ran into the Phoenix buzzsaw on Saturday and now New York is faced with the tall task of hosting the hottest team in the Pacific Division. (It’s true, look it up.) A win on Monday and the Suns will be on a three-game winning streak for the first time since March of 2017.

For the lucky few who watched, Phoenix looked good against the Timberwolves. It provided an encouraging glimpse of what could be. I’m bracing for the worst against New York. We’ve been burned before. But if they knock off the Knicks I’ll be advising my wife we need to start budgeting for Phoenix Suns NBA Finals tickets.

Probable starters:

Suns - De’Anthony Melton, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, T.J. Warren, Deandre Ayton

Knicks - Emmanuel Mudiay, Tim Hardaway Jr., Kevin Knox, Noah Vonleh, Enes Kanter

Suns

OffRtg - 101.5 (28th), DefRtg - 111.5 (26th), NetRtg = minus-10.1 (29th)

Show the casual NBA fan Saturday’s game against Minnesota and they’d have no idea the depths the Suns have reached this season.

Devin Booker returned and showed no signs of rust. We weren’t treated to the explosiveness we’ve seen in the past, but we’ll permit him a little more time to fully bounce back from his hamstring injury. He played smart basketball, and perhaps more importantly, fun basketball. The absence of a point guard will not soon be forgotten, but Book looked like a guy who is starting to figure out how to use these pieces around him at this time.

Deandre Ayton didn’t look great in the first half against Minnesota. He picked up his third foul early in the second quarter. Karl-Anthony Towns had 21 points at the break. Ayton looked significantly better in the second half. Towns finished with 28. Hopefully those final two quarters did a lot for Ayton’s confidence and he can roll that momentum into beating up Enes Kanter.

T.J. Warren started well on Saturday. Historically he doesn’t play well against the Knicks. Easing Booker’s scoring burden will go a long way towards stretching this win-streak to three.

Josh Jackson played good defense against Minnesota. He did not play good offense. It will be interesting to see how many minutes he’s afforded in New York.

De’Anthony Melton is looking the part. As is Mikal Bridges. This Knicks game is coming at the right time. More games against bad opponents, please, while we see what we have.

Knicks

OffRtg - 106.6 (21st), DefRtg - 112.4 (28th), NetRtg = minus-5.8 (26th)

The Knicks are bad, if you were previously unaware. They’re 9-22, but luckily they play in the East so that’s good enough for 12th in the conference.

New York got a little bit of a pick-me-up over the weekend. They managed a 126-124 overtime win in Charlotte. Sunday they came crashing back to Earth with a 110-99 loss at Indiana. Believe it or not the Knicks have managed a three-game win streak of their own this season, knocking off Boston, New Orleans, and Memphis the week of Thanksgiving.

In the win against Charlotte, Emmanuel Mudiay poured in 34 points. Against the Pacers he managed 18. If the Suns are going to keep winning, it’s probably best Mudiay doesn’t score 34 points.

Kanter vs. Ayton should be fun to watch. Against the Pelicans Kanter went for 15 points and 8 rebounds. In Indiana those numbers turned into 20 and 15. Ayton turned up the aggressiveness against Towns. He can do the same against Kanter.

Suns can hang at other positions. If we see the guys we saw against Minnesota anyway. If Tim Hardaway Jr. is no bum, but if he’s going to beat you, you deserve to lose.

Prediction

I can count on one hand the number of times the last couple of seasons that I legitimately thought the Phoenix Suns would win a National Basketball Association contest. These opportunities don’t come by often, you can’t pass them up.

Suns: 106 Knicks: 98