Quickley Shines. But Suns Too Hot. Phoenix 118 NY 97

The red-hot Phoenix Suns solidly beat the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on a Friday night. Phoenix’s Defense, tight Offense, energy, and deep bench were just too much for the Knicks, who were down by double digits in the 2nd quarter, and down by 20 or more throughout the 4th quarter.

The defending Western-Champ Suns go to 16-3; NY falls to 10-9. Former Knick Monty Williams has done such a great job with the Suns as their coach.

1. Booker Tough to Beat with the Mid-Range Jumper

Devin Booker came out and scored the first two buckets of the game on mid-range jumpers, and 11 points in the 1st quarter to put Phoenix up 7.

But he was really hot when he came back into the game for the last 7 minutes of the 2nd quarter — scoring 6 straight Phoenix points on mid-range, 20-foot jumpers sandwiching a drive. Booker had 21 points at the half and Phoenix had a 13-point lead.

Phoenix maintained their lead throughout the 3rd and 4th quarters — the Knicks could never bite into it. Booker finished with 32 points on 14-27 shooting (4-9 from 3) for a +15. He only had 1 rebound and 3 assists.

Meanwhile RJ Barrett who had to guard him a good part of the night (relieved by Quentin Grimes and Alec Burks) started well enough (was 2-4 for 7 points at the half) — but finished 3-10 (1-3 from 3) for 10 pts and a -13. He only had 3 rebounds and 0 assists.

The contrast between Booker and Barrett was evident and stark — Booker has that terrific mid-range jumper to complement his 3, and ability to drive to the hole. Barrett lacks a mid-range game; he’s improved his 3-point shooting (although he is in a slump lately) to compliment his strong ability to go to the hole and Defend and rebound. Barrett has got to improve his mid-range game and start asserting himself on offense again.

2. Phoenix Defense Clamped NY; Caused Turnovers

Phoenix played terrific defense throughout, leading to 16 Knick turnovers, many of them leading to fast-break buckets. “The live ball turnovers really hurt us,” said Knick coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “They had 17 fast-break points. Those easy buckets; it doesn’t take much to get them going. Then you’re playing from a deficit, so it puts a lot of pressure on you.”

“The 3 things you got to do is your Defense, your rebounding — our rebounding was  good, and turnovers — that really hurt us,” added Thibodeau. “They’re a terrific team; well balanced; they play tough; their defense is very good; their offense is very good. They put a lot of pressure on you.”

Evan Fournier started out hot for the Knicks in the 1st quarter, and carried them to an early 19-15 lead. But Phoenix and Jae Crowder clamped down the D on Fournier — and he finished 4-15 (3-7 from 3) for only 11 points and a -14.

Kemba Walker also scored for the Knicks a lot early — and poured in 10 points in the 3rd quarter — but again it seemed at the expense of Barrett and Randle. Kemba finished with 17 points on 5-11 shooting (3-6 from 3), while Randle only took 8 shots all night — 3-8 shooting (0-2 from 3) for 9 points in 32 minutes and a -9.

3. Quickley Fantastic

Immanuel Quickley was a bright spot — playing the point with aggressiveness and hitting his shot. He stood out with 16 points on 6-9 shooting (3-6 from 3) and 4 assists in 20 minutes.

Quickley played chippy defense on Chris Paul, especially in the 4th quarter, that had Chris Paul complaining to the refs.

Cameron Payne played well again for Phoenix — he has become a standout point guard and forced Elfrid Payton into constant DNP’s.

4. Knox Sighting; Bridges Played Well

With NY down 22 in the 4th, coach Tom Thibodeau brought Kevin Knox in because, as he said afterwards, he felt NY was not playing with energy and he was looking for a spark. Knox played well, and looked good on a drive and slam. He played 8 minutes.

Mikal Bridges played well — including a flying-through-the-air Slam on the break in the 2nd quarter — but didn’t kill the Knicks like he did last year; he played well enough and had 10 points on 4-7 shooting in 39 minutes and a +18.

5. Ayton vs Robinson & Noel

Mitchell Robinson was back from being out 2 games due to concussion protocol, and played well against Deandre Ayton, combining with Nerlens Noel to mostly neutralize him.

Ayton finished with 14 pts (7-9 shooting) and 13 rebounds in 32 minutes.  Robinson had 7 points (3-4 shooting) and 8 rebounds in 21 minutes. Nerlens Noel developed a minor injury during the game and was limping a bit while playing — he finished with 6 pts on 2-5 shooting, and 6 rebounds in 18 minutes.

So overall: Ayton 14 pts, 13 rebounds; Robinson/Noel: 13 pts, 14 rebounds.

6. Grimes In Early; McBride In Late

With Derrick Rose out, Quentin Grimes got 17 minutes — coming into the game to start the 2nd quarter to defend Booker. He started with good defense in the 2nd quarter but by the 4th was making lots of mistakes on Defense (fouls) and offense (throwing balls away) and did not shoot well (1-6, 1-5 from 3). It was a learning night for him.

Miles McBride played late and looked good on Defense in 4 minutes. He stole the ball and penetrated for a basket on one play.

The Boxscore



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