The Knicks head to Jeff Hornacek’s familiar grounds looking for a rare road win before they head home.
Although the Grammy Awards aren’t until tomorrow, it’s time for the Knicks to face the music.
While temporarily evicted from their dwelling, the Knicks have gone 2–4 on the road. Additionally, New York has lost seven of its last 10 matches. The Knicks are less treading water and more drowning in quicksand. Hopefully there’s a lifeguard on duty.
There are a lot of questions surrounding the New York Knicks (21–28). Who’s healthy? Who could be gone by the trade deadline? Will head coach Jeff Hornacek have a secure job by next season?
With a ton of mystery shrouding the Knicks, they finish their West Coast road trip with one final match in Phoenix against the Suns. Phoenix is a bit of a mystery, too, to be fair to not-the-Knicks. The Suns fired head coach Earl Watson mere days into the 2017–18 season, although expectations for Phoenix were truly low in a crowded Western Conference. Perhaps Phoenix management expected more than a focus on developing players like Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis, fourth overall pick Josh Jackson, and Marquese Chriss. However, due to the Eric Bledsoe debacle, the Suns’ dysfunction may have overshadowed the regular fog of disappointment that surrounds the ‘Bockers (in relative terms, the drama around the Knicks this season as been at an all time low compared to, say, this time last year).
Regardless, the Phoenix Suns (17–31) and trying to figure out what works for them, too, and although they don’t have as many veterans around their youth like the Knicks, they’re a feisty team with nothing to lose. The Knicks on the other hand? Every successive loss feels more disheartening as the trade deadline—the NBA’s demarcation for playoff push or tankapalooza—closes in on Steve Mills and Scott Perry’s inaugural season.
As they take it one day and one game at a time, let’s see how the Knicks match up against the Phoenix Suns.
The two rookies on display tonight are the Knicks’ Frank Ntilikina and the Suns’ Josh Jackson. Picked at no.’s 4 and 8, respectively, the two do not play the same position, but both Ntilikina and Jackson have received early praise for strong defensive potentials.
Worst offensive player among rookies? Frank Ntilikina (0.658 PPP).
Best defensive player among rookies? Frank Ntilikina (0.800 PPP).
— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) January 26, 2018
Jackson, who turns 21 years old in two weeks, is averaging 9.9 points on 40 percent shooting, 3.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 0.8 steals in 21.8 minutes per game (via NBA Stats). Although he has only started in 16 matches for Phoenix, Jackson has made waves as a defensive wing—a necessary component for a rebuilding franchise that the Knicks themselves lack. While Frank will compete in the Rising Stars Challenge, Josh was (possibly) snubbed.
Anyway, both J-Jack and Ntili Vanilli could find themselves in a rookie battle of “who can make a greater impact on defense?” The Suns, a young team, is undoubtedly careless with the basketball. Phoenix averages 15.9 turnovers per game—third-worst in the Association behind the Lakers and the 76ers, per NBA Stats. For New York, former Phoenix commander Jeff Hornacek will have to press his new team to force fumbles and run down the court to maximize fast breaks, an area the Knicks have truly struggled—emphasized during the extended absence of Tim Hardaway Jr. (who also missed last night’s contest in Denver). The Knicks need athletes like Ntilikina, Hardaway Jr., and last night’s martyr Trey Burke to push the pace and run circles around the young Suns.
Porzingis foul management
A quick glance at last night’s boxscore will ultimately point out the blemish of six personal fouls on Kristaps Porzingis’ record. If you look closer to the tape, though, you’ll find the result of the fouls committed by Porzingis were caused by terrible rotations from New York; Michael Beasley and Jarrett Jack were obvious culprits, which made Porzingis recover from a bad position thus fouling out of a game that saw Burke play his heart out.
Tonight, Porzingis will need to recover on a back-to-back (maybe fouling out gave him an extended rest?) and face his nemesis Marquese Chriss. Nemesis might be a strong word. The two exchanged pleasantries a while back, if you recall:
PORZINGIS JUST SHOVED CHRISS
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) December 14, 2016
KP boasts a +11.0 NetRtg versus Phoenix, according to Basketball-Rating. The Knicks will need a clear-conscious Porzingis and a stone cold killer with accuracy on Friday night. However, perhaps a rested Hardaway Jr. can provide scoring relief (now let’s see if somebody can play defense).
- Joakim Noah is, again, not with the team due to vague, personal reasons.
- The Suns are debuting their “City Edition” uniforms tonight. Expect a lot of purple.
Tip-off is set for 9:00 p.m. EST from Talking Stick Resort Arena.