The Phoenix Suns showed in this game that they really need their All-Star playmakers to run the offense in the clutch minutes.
The Suns outscored the Knicks 23-11 to open the fourth quarter and tie the game at 104-104 with 3:13 left, but the Knicks pulled back out to 109-104 with a second-chance putback and a transition three.
Cameron Johnson added on to his career high with this 8th three (35 points) to pull the Suns back to 110-108.
The crowd erupted when a Crowder three with 30.2 seconds left put the Suns up 112-111, taking a lead for the first time since early third quarter.
Yet ANOTHER failed Suns boxout of Mitchell Robinson let the Knicks score the go-ahead on yet another second chance point. Robinson now has 15 rebounds — NINE ON THE OFFENSIVE END — and 17 points.
A few seconds later, CAMERON JOHNSON sank a thirty-foot banker to WIN THE GAME. Johnson finishes with 38 points — almost 50% higher than his previous career high of 24 points.
Suns win, 115-114.
Just another night at the office.
Suns: All-Stars Chris Paul (thumb) and Devin Booker (COVID) both OUT along with the usuals, Frank and Dario.
Knicks: Kemba Walker, Quentin Grimes, Derrick Rose, Obi Toppen all OUT.
Knicks came out physical and active, and are sure a lot more talented than the rotation the Blazers put out on Wednesday. This is going to be a tough test for the Suns.
Luckily, they’re at home with a wildly energized crowd. Mikal Bridges made a couple of early threes, while the Knicks couldn’t hit a jumper from any distance.
Deandre Ayton had a tough start against Mitchell Robinson, who got a steal, and o-board and a tough finish while forcing DA into an uncharacteristic 0-2 shooting start.
The Knicks whole offense to start the game was to get Julius Randle the ball and have him attempt to blatantly draw shooting fouls with rip-throughs, a la Chris Paul. Except Randle’s weren’t all successful, and he did it so early in the game he’s giving the refs a chance to adjust to the obvious foul-baiting before any meaningful minutes are played.
Still, Randle got his touches and scored 14 of the Knicks first 21 points, helping the Knicks to the lead late in the first quarter. DA missed 4 of 5 shots, most of them jumpers on the catch outside the paint, and grabbed only one rebound in his first stint. The Suns only stayed in the game by making 5 of 10 threes, while the Knicks generated 12 free throws to the Suns’ 0.
So far this appears to be a game the Suns might struggle to win, given they don’t have any go-to-in-any-situation scorers or playmakers without Book and CP.
Still, the Suns used a spirited defense to lead after one quarter, 26-24. The Knicks shot only 33% from the field, but those 12 free throws kept it close. Mikal Bridges had 11 early points for the Suns, while Randle had 14 for the Knicks.
Torrey Craig is back to missing open threes. He’s now 6-28 on threes as a Sun this year after being traded back from Indiana. That’s 23%.
As the second quarter started, the Knicks leaned in to the foul-drawing by driving hard from the perimeter and forcing JaVale McGee to defend the paint on the move. That worked well for the Knicks. Not so much for JaVale, who committed his third foul within 7 minutes of play.
Neither team was scoring well, that’s for sure. The game was tied 34-34 nearly halfway through the second quarter. The problem for the Knick is that the Suns are a much better offensive team than they are, and the lid will likely come off the basket soon even without Book and CP here.
By halftime, the Suns led 58-55 in an ugly whistle-crazy half as the two teams had combined for 31 free throw attempts (Knicks lead there, 20-11). Mikal Bridges leads the Suns with 17 points. Cam Johnson has 9. For Knicks, Julius Randle has 20 and R.J. Barrett has 10.
Welp. Any thoughts that the refs might tone it down at halftime and let the guys play more goes poof with the opening Knicks offensive possession. A bad foul call coupled with a tech on Jae Crowder for complaining and the Knicks got back into the lead with a 7-0 run.
The Suns had a 7-0 run of their own to retake the lead, but the game was still just fairly ugly because they allowed the Knicks to make it that way.
Then the Knicks took over again, making big shots while still getting all the physical play and 50/50 balls going their way. The Suns just didn’t have the offensive focus to hold up, and then started losing focus on defense too.
Soon the Knicks were up 86-76 after a trio of threes by Alec Burks and Evan Fournier (2). The Knicks came into this game with the league’s 24th ranked offense but 10th on three-point attempts and 16th on making them. Suns just allowing too many easy shots in this one.
At that point, we had an NBA fight. All I saw was Bismack Biyombo in a shoving match with Julius Randle. Randle was ejected, but it was too late to turn the tide of the Knicks energy and the Suns don’t have anyone to rely on for scoring on their own right now.
By the end of three, Knicks up 93-81. They are shooting 50% on threes (12-24), 51% overall and have out-rebounded the Suns 37-21. Knicks fans are probably wondering where this team has been all season, especially over their last 19 games (3 wins, 16 losses).
The Suns are 40-0 when holding teams under 110 points vs. 10-12 when allowing 110 or more points. The Knicks only need 18 points this quarter to make it to that 110 promised land.
The Suns started the 4th with extra focus, going on a 12-4 run, with Bismack Biyombo at center with Cameron Payne (two three-point plays), Cameron Johnson (two threes), Torrey Craig and Landry Shamet.
Cam Johnson would not be denied in this one after taking a hard shot to the ribs in the first half from Julius Randle. He set a new career high in scoring at 26 points early in the 4th quarter to help the Suns pull to back within 97-93 with 7:44 left.
But then the refs struck again, and the calls started going the Knicks way again. Suns were missing their shots again too, which didn’t help.
Cameron Johnson tied the game at 104-104 with his 7th three, but then the Knicks pulled right back out to a 109-104 lead on a few empty possessions and a break-down transition three for the Knicks.
This all just led to CAM JOHNSON’S GAME WINNER, because of course.