After allowing the New York Knicks to tie the score 60-60 early in the third quarter, the Suns went on a 30-15 run to take a comfortable lead going into the 4th. And then in the fourth, mostly fueled by the bench, they blew the game wide open.
The Suns offense was balanced, with all five starters tallying 13-20 points, 3-6 assists and 4-11 rebounds before the 3rd quarter ended with the Suns leading 90-75.
The bench unit — two two-ways and three minimums, considering the Suns had four rotation players out — held their own defensively and all were at least +3 on plus/minus.
The Suns lead was up to 26 by the 6:28 mark of the 4th and this baby was over. The Suns had outscored the Knicks 50-26 in the last 1.5 quarters to take a 105-79 lead. Damion Lee started celebrating the capper, a Cameron Payne three, by running full-speed down to the Suns end of the court even before Payne had released the ball.
That’s a 26-point lead folks. The Knicks may have lit the Brunson burner but the Suns lit the whole damn fireplace.
Until it went out. The Knicks went on a 10-0 run at that point to cut the Suns lead to 16 with 4:02 left and force Monty Williams to at least consider putting a starter or two back in.
He didn’t. Instead, he must have said all the right things and the Suns went on a 9-0 run to put the game back out of reach.
Cameron Payne finished with a team-high 21 points, dished 9 assists and grabbed 7 rebounds in 32 minutes of play. He’s really stepped up this season, earning the trust of his coaches as he fills in for all-time great Chris Paul.
Payne says he feels stronger in running the offense this year — lobs to Ayton in the pick-and-roll and passes all the way through the defense to the weak corner for an open three.
“Just being out there longer, you see a full game of how I can play,” Payne says. “Including playing through mistakes.”
“He’s getting better and better each game,” All-Star guard Devin Booker said of Payne’s development in the starting lineup while Chris Paul is out.
Suns win, 116-95
The Suns held the Knicks to 22 or fewer points in 3 of 4 quarters in this one, and 95 overall. They only scored 46 second-half points. Quite an improvement from recent defensive performances.
“It was a point of emphasis for us,” Booker said of the defensive effort.
With a 26-point lead in the 4th, none of the starters had to play more than 33 minutes in this one.
Helps to be at home — Suns are now 8-1 at home vs. 2-5 on the road.
First Half Highlights...
After the Knicks won the tip and made the first shot, the Phoenix Suns went on a 8-0 run with a lot of activity that gives the impression of a focused game coming from the boys in blue (turquoise jerseys). Would have been worse if not for a pair of missed FTs (Ayton) and a missed fast break layup (Booker).
Cameron Payne got off a heck of a start with 10 points in the first 4.5 minutes. He helped the Suns take a 15-7 lead. The Suns got Isaiah Hartenstein into foul trouble quickly (2 in 3 mins) and then got one on Mitchell Robinson a couple minutes later. It will really help if the Suns can keep those big in foul trouble.
The Knicks are staying in the game by attacking the Suns defense with drives. Looks like the Suns are pressing up on Knicks perimeter guys on the catch, inducing them to drive rather than take the three. Except, the Knicks want that. They’re only shooting 31% on threes this year.
Ayton is really passive in this game. Passing OUT of an alley-oop to Torrey Craig, and then passing out of a post-up chance a possession later. He’s really in a bad spot offensively right now.
The offense bogged down a bit (41% shooting), and the Suns started going to the bench for a bit more energy. But here was where the Knicks pulled all the way back into the game to (almost) take the lead but then both teams started missing a bunch of shots. Damion Lee finally made a corner three, breaking a slump of six straight misses between them.
Suns lead 28-22 after one quarter. Neither team is shooting over 37% from the field. Oy.
The Suns started the second quarter with Duane Washington Jr., Ish Wainright, Bismack Biyombo, Damion Lee and Josh Okogie. Two two-ways and three mins. Suns depth is really being challenged these days. That happens when you’re down four rotation players to injury/selfies.
Suns starters began to trickle back in at the 9:30 mark after lots of empty possessions on both ends. I guess the Knicks bench is bad too.
Josh Okogie had his best offensive shift of the season, making 3 of 4 shots, including a side-step three. That might have been his first three of the season.
The Suns took a 44-33 lead on a nice assist from Ayton to Torrey Craig for a dunk, then made a short jumper.
The starters went cold at that point, missing everything they put up (including a pair of missed free throws by Ayton). The Knicks pulled back to 46-45 with 2:58 left — their second time with a chance to take the lead after the opening minute — and called a timeout to get their offense right.
But the Suns didn’t give it up. They induced a turnover, then Torrey Craig got a big offensive board and put the Suns back up three on a pair of free throws.
Suns lead by only two points at halftime, 55-53, after the Knicks made a pair of threes. The Knicks end the half making 38% of their threes (they only average 31%), while the Suns went ice cold — 38% on all shots, 33% on threes.