You could feel the playoff atmosphere from your living room. The playoffs are close but this matchup was the real deal with vitality running its way though the arena.
Outlasting their opponent, the Suns gave their fans a taste of what to expect when the games start to really matter.
Before the Knicks were able to waste their first timeout, Suns fans began to rise and cheer after Chris Paul drained a three to put the Suns up 10-3 over the Knicks. What was a weird first couple possessions and a quick chat between Paul and Deandre Ayton, the Suns offense began to open up when a aggressive Ayton was unlocked.
Both the Knicks and Suns were on the other side of aggression. Clutch Paul started the game with explosive moves and Ayton is was making himself available in the paint, and able to create passing lanes for his teammates.
Jae Crowder made his return, and drained his first three of the game, with the Suns fans sounding like 10,000 on their feet and cheering.
Passes were zipping to Ayton in the paint, while he was able to pull off great looks at the rim. On the other side of the ball, Julius Randle was nearly unstoppable. If he were to run out of gas, that might be the best way of stopping him. You could say the same about Derrick Rose, who made his way to the rim easily.
Suns coach Monty Williams burned his first timeout after the Knicks took the lead 24-23 after Devin Booker forced up a bad look from three, Reggie Bullock was able to sink one from the corner on the other side of the floor.
A dominant first quarter start from the Suns ended with the Knicks picking up their defense and taking a 33-30 lead into the second quarter.
Paul and the Suns bench started the second quarter, and I think Paul likes the connection between him and Frank Kaminski with two nice assists to the big man in the paint. The task of completing offensive possessions to one of the better high IQ bench in the NBA, Paul was having fun in opportunities for open shots by teammates and himself.
It was still difficult to navigate the Knicks defense, who were not allowing second chances at a another position and continued to get to the rim on offense to take a 46-41 lead into another Suns timeout.
The Knicks were able to take away the passing lanes from the Suns leading to turnovers on multiple possessions. The defense from the Knicks made it seem like the Suns would be unable to score again. Double teams seemed like triple teams and panic started to overcome some of the Suns players until Booker was able to get to the line on back to back possessions.
Cam Payne closed the gap to four, with a corner three assisted by Crowder, after the Suns fell behind by as much as 11. Timeout to the Knicks.
Timeout was needed and the Kicks came back out to kick the lead back up to seven. There was a sense of calmness to both the Suns and Knicks when their offenses needed to get better looks and to go on a run. Any rush of a run and gun offense led to turnovers, but the Kicks were able to enter halftime with a 63-56 lead.
Two MUCH needed three pointers from the Suns cut the lead to four, and the Knicks had to turn right back around and call a timeout.
The disappearance of Booker needs to be found in the third quarter. With teammates filling the void, it was looking like Booker would need to help and create his shot to get the Suns back in it.
Mikal Bridges started to feel himself with two threes to start the third and Booker headed to the line with another foul drawn. If the shots are not falling for Booker, getting to the line is the next best thing. 70-67 Knicks.
Ayton was absolutely setting the tone on offense, leading to great defense. Usually it would be the other way around but Paul was able to find Ayton on possession after possession.
Dunk after dunk, Ayton was the talk of the third quarter. Never letting up, Paul and Ayton had some of the best two-man game we have seen this season in a five minute stretch.
So close to tying or taking the lead, the Suns were unable to capitalize on open shots and great looks from the paint. With a minute left in the third quarter, the Knicks still led 88-81.
With a Torrey Craig put back bucket and a steal on the inbounds pass, Payne gave the Suns the lead entering the fourth quarter! An insane finish to the quarter.
Crowder opened the fourth quarter with a three, then gets a technical called for calling out the Knicks bench... then he follows it up with another three and just walks away.
101-93 Suns team rebounding with Ayton out of the game, paved to an offensive explosion. Three after three has the Suns starting to pull away.
A dirty play by Taj Gibson is always needed in a Suns game. With things going the Suns way, Gibson looked to land and elbow leading to a flagrant foul-1. In live action, it looked dirty but on replay it may have been an accident, but I really don’t care. Meaningful basketball is back in the Valley and it is worth fighting for.
Paul, who was then fired up, started to really take over. The bench did their part, now Paul and the starters began to wrap things up.
The expectation to have Booker help out offensively did not happen, but it did not matter with the rest of the team stepping up in big ways. Tempers were flaring and the bench were clearing... but because the Suns were up 125-105 with two minutes left in the game.
Suns win 128-105.