Can’t Win ‘Em All — Jan 3, 2020: Phoenix 120 NY 112

Phoenix hit their 3’s in the final 5 minutes, and the Knicks couldn’t buy one — turning a 103-102 Knicks lead with 5:38 left into a Phoenix win. Devin Booker, Aron Baynes, and Kelly Oubre Jr in particular, were red hot. And that was ballgame. Elfrid Payton made two bad passes in the final 2:21, missed a layup (on a ball that rolled in and out after a nice drive), and missed some free throws; Knicks Twitter’s Fickle Finger of Blame pointed squarely at him.

Some of it was Murphy’s Law: on one key play with just over 8 minutes left, the Knicks played great defense which ended in a Cameron Johnson drive but Mitchell Robinson was there to SWAT the ball away like he was playing volleyball; unfortunately the ball went out to Ricky Rubio who nailed a 3 for a 4-pt Phoenix lead.

The Knicks played well for most of the game, taking a 10-point lead into the half. But Phoenix came out in the 3rd quarter on a 10-0 run to tie it, and it was neck-to-neck the rest of the way, the lead see-sawing back and forth.

You got the feeling the Knicks would lay down an intense defense in the 3rd or 4th quarters to stifle Phoenix, but it never game. Devin Booker was too hot to handle, and he opened things up for other Phoenix 3-pt shooters.

The Knicks got great shooting from Marcus Morris (8-17, 4-8 from 3 for 25 pts) and Bobby Portis (7-10, 3-6 from 3 for 20 pts).

Phoenix did a good job of mostly preventing alley oop lobs from Frank Ntilikina and others to Mitchell Robinson, although there were a couple.

Part of the Knicks lack of interior success was that was Julius Randle struggled (5-17, 0-6 from 3 for 13 points) — so the Knicks didn’t have their 2-headed inside monster of Randle/Robinson they had the previous game. Some of the struggle was due to the fine play of DeAndre Ayton (5-11, 15 pts, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block) AND Aron Baynes (7-16, 20 pts, 12 rebounds) — who provided an inside two-headed monster of their own. In the previous game Hassan Whiteside didn’t get much help, and had to contend with Robinson/Randle himself.

Reggie Bullock came off the bench to play well again but was only 1-5 from 3 (4-11 from 2 for 9 pts).

Barrett Played Better than His Boxscore

RJ Barrett played good defense and made some terrific drives to the basket, but was only 1-6 from 3 (3-10 overall for 10 points) for a -2. He played better than that (except the 3 point shooting). At one point near the end of the 1st half after Phoenix had pulled to within 2 at 45-43:

  • Barrett drove to the basket, was fouled, and made both free throws.
  • Next time down Barrett hit a big 3 over the Phoenix zone.
  • On the next play Barrett grabbed a big rebound in traffic, and sent it the other way where Randle scored on a power move and got the foul for a 3-pt play
  • And just like that it was NY 51 Phoenix 43, mostly due to Barrett.


The game was played at Phoenix’s “Talking Stick Resort Arena”, which produced some chuckles from Knicks Twitter. The arena was originally named “America West Arena” and later “US Airways Center”. The naming rights now owned by Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. An American Indian “Talking Stick” is passed around a group to allow people to speak in turn.

Elfrid Payton flew in on his own to the game and arrived just before game time. It was revealed his wife had just had a baby girl.

Marc Berman of the NY Post reported that James Dolan is traveling with the team on the trip (possibly to take care of business in LA, as MSG owns part of the Staples Center).

The Boxscore



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