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Preview: Suns finish Eastern trip in the Big Apple (Early start: 4:30PM)

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The Suns final task? The hottest team in the NBA: the New York Knicks

Phoenix Suns v New York Knicks Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

What: New York Knicks (34-27) vs. Phoenix Suns (42-18)

When: 4:30 p.m. MST

Where: Madison Square Garden

Watch: Bally Sports Arizona, NBATV

Listen: 98.7 FM


There’s something about the Garden. Located between 7th and 8th Avenue on 31st Street is the Mecca of basketball. Down the street is the iconic Empire State Building. There’s a greasy little pizza ship just across the street, NY Pizza Suprema, where they’ll yell at you if you don’t walk in knowing exactly what you want.

The bright lights of the Garden bring out legendary performances. Reggie Miller shot the choke sign at Spike Lee in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. Michael Jordan dropped 42 in 1998 while wearing a pair of Air Jordan I’s. Carmelo Anthony set the record for points scored in the Garden with a 62-point performance in 2014.

Monday night marks the sixth time that Devin Booker will step onto the court in NYC and play a professional basketball game. He has done well in his previous five performances, averaging 29.6 points. This will be the first time he will bring with him a team that is playoff bound with championship aspirations.

And this is the first time he will be playing a Knicks team doing the same thing.

Probable Starting Lineups

Phoenix

Chris Paul - Devin Booker - Mikal Bridges - Cameron Johnson - Deandre Ayton

New York

Elfrid Payton - Reggie Bullock - RJ Barrett - Julius Randall - Nerlens Noel

Uniform Tracker

Out/Injured

Phoenix:

  • Dario Saric (OUT, ankle)
  • Abdel Nader (OUT, knee)
  • Jae Crowder (OUT, ankle)
  • Langston Galloway (OUT, personal)

Atlanta:

  • Alec Burks (OUT, health and safety protocols)
  • Mitchell Robinson (OUT, ankle)

Knicks Update

  • Points-per-Game/Offensive Rating: 106.9 (26th)/110.5 (19th)
  • Opponents Points-per-Game/Defensive Rating: 104.7 (1st)/108.3 (4th)
  • Net Rating: +2.3 (10th)

New York native Alicia Keys sings that state of the Knicks perfectly, “This girl is on fire!” The New York Knickerbockers are.

The team is currently on a 9-game winning streak that include three overtime victories. The level of competition hasn’t been out-of-this world challenging — they’ve defeated a hampered Lakers team, the Pelicans and Raptors twice, Charlotte, Memphis, Atlanta, and Dallas — but they’ve won they games they should en route to the 4th best record in the Eastern Conference.

They bring with them the best defense in the NBA and MVP candidate Julius Randle, who is on an absolute tear this year. Randle is averaging 24 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 6.0 assists. Zion Williamson’s Duke running mate RJ Barrett is putting together a quality sophomore campaign as he has contributed 17.6 point and 5.7 rebounds, including 38.8% from deep. Rookie Immanuel Quickley has been a pleasant surprise for the team coming off the bench.

The NBA world is more exciting when the Knicks are good, and what I like about this team is they don’t piss me off. I like the pieces. The John Starks/Patrick Ewing/Charlie “I wish he played NFL football after winning the Heisman at Florida State” Ward/Charles Oakley Knicks teams of the 90’s would frustrate you with their style of play. They couldn’t beat you, so they’d beat on you.

The 2020-21 Knicks is a team full of guys I root for. I want Randle to dominate as I always appreciated his talent (and wanted him to come to Phoenix). RJ Barrett is Steve Nash’s god son. Obi Toppin — who hasn't had much of a chance to grow given he plays behind Randle — was one of my favorite prospects coming out of the draft.

I like the Knicks. But not tonight.

Suns Update

  • Points-per-Game/Offensive Rating: 114.3 (110th)/116.0 (7th)
  • Opponents Points-per-Game/Defensive Rating: 108.4 (6th)/110.1 (5th)
  • Net Rating: +5.9 (4th)

Another New York native can sing the lyric that reflects the state of the Suns after the last two games. As Jay-Z once sang, “It’s a hard knock life for us”.

The Suns are looking to avoid their second three-game losing streak of the season (the first coming following the January 27 loss to the Thunder). We knew entering this five-game road trip that it would be a challenge and the schedule has lived up to the expectation thus far. Quality wins over the Bucks and 76ers, floundering losses at the hands of the Celtics and Nets. Regardless of tonight’s outcome, however, this has been a successful east coast swing.

Phoenix continues to grow and mature, to find out what their strength's are and what challenges they must fix by the time the playoffs come around. We are in the home stretch of season that will place us in the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons. The team tired and fatigued, and for the young players on this team, they are learning how to push through those pains.

Keys to a Suns Win

New York is a grind it out, beat you with defense team. Their defensive numbers are impressive:

  • Opponent 3PT%: 33.7% (1st)
  • Opponent FG%: 44.2% (1st)
  • Opponent offensive rebounds: 9.5 (8th)
  • Opponent steals: 6.7 (4th)

They play with the slowest pace in the NBA, try to stop you on one end, and beat with efficiency and effective passing on the other. If you throw double teams at Julius Randle, he’ll beat you with his passing. If you run isolation defense on him, he’ll beat you with his first step.

The Suns are a chameleon on offense that can beat you numerous ways. A slower paced game may be welcomed at the back end of the road trip and is something that Chris Paul can orchestrate with ease. It’ll come down to the Suns effectiveness from the three-point line in this one. I foresee plenty of drawn out possessions that ultimately result to a shot by Cameron Johnson or Mikal Bridges in the corner.

There is saying that Greg Esposito said earlier in the season that rings true: “This team goes as Mikal and Cam Johnson go”. They haven’t gone well as of late.

Cam and Mikal will combine for 6 made three’s in this game. Suns will end the Knicks’ winning streak and their own losing streak and leave JFK with a 3-2 road trip under their belt.

Suns 116, Knicks 109