New York topped a lengthy road trip with a sweet victory, racing by Phoenix in a testy game that featured double technicals and plenty of Trey Burke.
Friday night’s game was a rare occurrence in that the New York Knicks (22–28) led the entire way from the opening tip to the final buzzer at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Phoenix is the worst defensive team in basketball in terms of points allowed per game (112.2), and the Knicks were certainly able to exploit that this evening. Enes Kanter dominated in the first half with 19 points and ended up with a double-double putting up 20 points and 10 boards while KP added 19. Recent G League call up Trey Burke had a big game as well in limited minutes, pouring in 18 points on 57 percent shooting from the field.
The second half of this game got chippy, highlighted by Devin Booker’s second technical foul, which resulted in him getting tossed with 4:03 left in the 3rd quarter. Booker took exception to Enes Kanter’s aggressive block and/or trash talking and gave him a shove. This was a huge break for the Knicks as they never looked back from there and buried the Suns, who didn’t look like a competent team without Booker.
Here’s how Kanter expressed himself on Twitter after it was all said and done:
Hold that “L” kid.
Talk to me nice or don’t talk to me at all… pic.twitter.com/tS3mLgClTA
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) January 27, 2018
But the Knicks went on cruise control in the final quarter, winning 107–85.
Strong Defensive Performance
The Phoenix Suns, despite their 17–32 record, boast an extremely young and athletically explosive team with a lot of high energy guys such as Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, and Marquese Chriss.. New York did an excellent job tonight forcing the Suns into low-percentage shots, as well as keeping the Suns off of the free-throw line (13 total attempts). Devin Booker was off of his game all night and eventually let his frustration get the best of him, leading to the ejection in the third period. Booker’s 12 points was his lowest scoring output of any game he’s played in since November 10th (per ESPN Stats).
The defensive energy tonight was there as a team, which is why they were able to pick up a rare road win. Defense definitely travels no matter where you’re playing, and if the Knicks can guard with intelligence, grit, and passion like they did tonight, then things will fall into place. Clearly the Phoenix Suns aren’t a juggernaut, but all you can do in sports is beat who is on the schedule, and New York took care of business tonight as the Suns could only muster 85 points. Credit Lance Thomas and Courtney Lee, the defensive anchors, who challenged the team to simply be better in a “players only” meeting. Veteran leadership like that works wonders or the unit, especially when it’s coming from high character guys like Thomas and Lee.
Scary Evening for Timmy
Tim Hardaway Jr. suffered not one but two injuries this evening; nevertheless, he was able to finish the game strong and compete at a high level. Hardaway Jr. tweaked his ankle when he landed awkwardly on it while coming down from taking a perimeter shot in the first half. He walked that one off but was hurt a second time on a fast break layup attempt. A defenseless Timmy was pulled down by Devin Booker and fell hard and subsequently hit his head and neck area on the base of the hoop. THJ eventually got up after a few minutes and was able to finish the game after going to the locker room to get tested.
TIMMY SLAM pic.twitter.com/ZH4MgrfBJT
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) January 27, 2018
We know injuries have been an issue for Hardaway this year, and even though these tonight have nothing to do with his leg injury from last month, it is concerning to see how fragile he is sometimes. Props to him though for toughing it out, still putting up 15 points and seven rebounds and continuing to play hard for his team.
Every Knicks fan knows how abysmal the offense was without THJ, so it is imperative that he stays healthy in order for New York to get back to their winning ways displayed earlier in the season.
Overall, Friday was solid win for New York an inferior team and one the Knicks should beat more often than not. The Knickerbockers look to build on the momentum from tonight to get back on track. Next game will be back at MSG Tuesday against the crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets at 7:30 p.m. EST.