Knicks CRUSH Suns to Begin 2023. NY 102 Phoenix 83

Mitchell Robinson dominates the Suns

The Phoenix Suns didn’t know what hit them.

Some Knicks fans didn’t know what hit the Phoenix Suns either!

NY crushed the championship-contending Suns with DEFENSE — only allowing Phoenix 11 points in the 1st quarter, en route to building a 32-point 2nd quarter lead — 52-20 at one point — and easy blowout at Madison Square Garden on a Monday afternoon — 3 pm start — everyone’s day off to celebrate the new year.

Julius Randle was ON FIRE from the start, and Jalen Brunson was back from missing 3 games with a hip pointer — playing the point with usual poise, and fire. Immanuel Quickley, who had been the point in Brunson’s absence, also imposed his will on the game with defense, scoring, and orchestrations.

“Our guys came out and played really hard defensively; played very unselfish offensively,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “And sometimes it’s difficult to play with a lead like that, but I thought our guys did a really good job of playing tough with the lead. They can make up ground very quickly the way they shoot 3’s. So that was a big concern. And the rebounding — I think our defense and our rebounding — we’re getting back on track.”

Phoenix was without Devin Booker; NY was without RJ Barrett. The Knicks won their second in a row after the horrid 5-game losing streak that featured 4 excruciating loses. NY improves to 20-18; Phoenix falls to 20-18.

The story:

1. Knick DEFENSE

Actually many Knick fans were not surprised by the crushing win. Before the 5-game losing streak, NY had won 8 in a row, featuring Tom Thibodeau DEFENSE. NY crushed Houston on New Year’s eve in Houston — allowing only 80 points. Thibs said the Knicks had been letting their defense slide during the 5-game losing streak but were tightening it back up.

In this one the Knicks shut down Phoenix from the start with relentless on-ball pressure defense. NY took a 23-11 lead after 1 quarter. At that point the Knicks had allowed only 64 points in last 4 quarters of play (53 in last 3 quarters vs Houston).

2. Randle on FIRE

Meanwhile Julius Randle was ON FIRE — hitting his 3, penetrating for scores, penetrating and passing — rebounding — doing it all — playing like one of the best forwards in the game as he has been doing the last month.

Afterwards, Randle was asked by Rebecca Haarlow what the most enjoyable part of this stretch has been. His answer: “Playing in front of the fans in the Garden, man. It’s a love; I love it.”

Afterwards, when asked about his recent play and how important it would be to make the All Star Game again, Randle credited his family, “not necessarily for me but I’d love to experience it with my family — my son, both of my sons, my wife too — because they’re the people that make the true sacrifice of letting me to dedicate myself to the game — so I’d love to be able to let them enjoy it and see the rewards of it.”

In the 2nd quarter, the Knicks went on a 21-point run, their longest in 3 years.

3. Brunson Is Back

Jalen Brunson was a big part of it too. Penetrating, hitting floaters, hitting 3’s. NY went up 52-20.

Phoenix whittled the Knick lead down to 23 at the half, NY 54 Phoenix 31 — but were never able to get it under 20 in the 3rd quarter — in fact NY upped it back up to 30.

Every time Phoenix tried to cut the lead, there was Brunson, or Immanuel Quickley, or Quentin Grimes, or Randle scoring to bring the Knick lead back up. And the Knick DEFENSE remained constant.

In the 4th, the closest Phoenix got was 19 points down — the Knicks quickly pushed the lead back to over 20 points, and in the end Phoenix got to within 19 for the final score.

4. Quick Playing Great Ball

Immanuel Quickley was able to play off ball for a good part of the night — and took the point when Brunson rested. His brief series of games as the Knicks starting point guard has increased his confidence and gotten him into a scoring rhythm, and his on-ball defense remains exceptional.

Quick scored 15 points on 6-12 shooting (3-6 from 3) with 5 rebounds and 3 assists.

5. Robinson Dominated Ayton

Another key to the Knicks outplaying Phoenix was Mitchell Robinson who dominated DeAndre Ayton inside — outrebounding him, defending the paint, and scoring on slams. Robinson had 10 pts on 5-7 shooting, 10 rebounds, and a block to Ayton’s 12 points and 5 rebounds — so the stat line didn’t quite show how much Robinson dominated the paint. Robinson’s +27 to Ayton’s -24 tell the real story.

6. QGrimes Is Very Good

And Quentin Grimes continues to play a tremendous brand of basketball — perpetual motion machine, always in the right place at the right time — taking a pass underneath from a hounded teammate, and putting it in for a score or whipping it to someone wide open — hitting his 3’s, making efficient, quick drives to the basket, and playing tough on-ball defense.

7. Fournier Unwrapped

In the 2nd quarter, the Knicks rolled Evan Fournier out and he started hitting 3’s. “What a joy to have Fournier out of his bubble wrap and knocking down shots” said Wally Szczerbiak on the broadcast.

With Brunson back, Fournier got 14 minutes at the expense of Miles McBride, who played 18 minutes and played well — good on-ball defense and 3 points on 1-2 shooting (he hit a 3).

8. Other Knicks

At one point Jericho Sims and Mitchell Robinson were on the court at the same time — and Jericho found himself with the ball and brought it up court, over the mid-court line — and passed it to Robinson who then passed to a guard on the outside.

At another point Mitchell Robinson put it between the legs in the lane before a kick out pass. It was that kind of evening — the Knicks were in rhythm, playing HARD, and having fun.

  • Randle finished with 28 pts, 16 rebounds, and 6 assists.
  • Brunson had 24 points and 6 assists.
  • Grimes had 12 points on 5-9 shooting.

Derek Rose was out with a sore knee. “He took a knee in the Houston game,” said Thibs afterwards. It’s something that just popped up.”

Cam Reddish continues to be glued to the bench — a victim of the Knicks tighter 9-man rotation, that Thibs has credited with the improved defense and offensive rhythm.

Chris Paul had 11 points and was mostly bodied up and outplayed by Jalen Brunson, Miles McBride, and Immanuel Quickley all evening.

Mikal Bridges had 10 points.

The Boxscore


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