Knicks struggle to keep up with championship-tested Suns as Phoenix relies on role players for the big win.

The New York Knicks (8-9) continued their road trip out west with a matinee matchup against the hobbled Phoenix Suns (10-6). Missing Chris Paul (heel), Cam Johnson (meniscus), and Jae Crowder (diva), it seemed like the Knicks caught a break and could secure another W on this long west coast road trip. But Phoenix had other plans, as the Sun’s bench led the way, routing the Knicks 116-95.

Throughout the first half, the Knick bench was the only reliable part of the offense. Pulling New York back into the game when the starters came out slow, Immanuel Quickley and Derrick Rose each had seven points in the first quarter to keep the Knicks within striking distance. The starters began to figure it out by the second half, with Quentin Grimes helping orchestrate the offense.

Jalen Brunson picked up the offensive burden when the game seemed to be slipping. He put on a midrange masterpiece in the third quarter, tallying twenty-seven points on the night. Keeping the game close with little to no help, Brunson could only carry the Knicks for so long before running out of gas.

Lacking the usual firepower at the top, Phoenix spread their offense out to beat New York. Every Suns starter was in double digits tonight as they found the mismatch and open looks wherever they presented themselves. Movement off the ball was one of the key factors for Phoenix’s success; New York struggled to keep guys in front of them throughout the game. After seeing some defensive improvements on this western road trip, the Knicks’ defense has been inconsistent to put it kindly.

Thrust into the starting lineup for the injured CP3, Cam Payne led the scoring for Phoenix with twenty-one points. Devin Booker chipped in twenty points along with knocking in five threes. Add in some extra offense from reserve Damion Lee, who dropped fifteen off the bench, and the game quickly became a blowout.

One bright spot was Quentin Grimes starting in place of Cam Reddish. With Reddish missing from the game (sore right groin), New York desperately needed defense in the starting uni and Grimes was able to leave his imprint on both sides of the ball. Notching ten points along with solid defense against Devin Booker, the best thing from Grimes was his shot creation for others. Grimes had eight assists and looked just as comfortable on the ball as he did in Summer League. Seeing this development from Grimes is a great sight as the Knicks need more ball movement in an iso-heavy offense.

Key takeaways:

  • Guarded predominantly by the 216-pound Torey Craig and 210-pound Mikal Bridges, Julius Randle turned to his post game for some easy buckets. Unfortunately (and bafflingly) it was a short stint with Randle on the block, but this should be noted in the future as Randle looks good when put in situations with less dribbling. A Randle post-up-centric offense could be an interesting change of pace when the Knicks need offense in the halfcourt. This open look for Brunson comes from the Suns trying to stop Randle in the paint as he’s bigger and stronger than most of his matchups:
  • Although Grimes has struggled to earn a spot in the rotation, his performance today indicates he’s ready for more minutes, but it will be interesting when Reddish comes back. Earlier in the year, Reddish was supplanted in the starting lineup for the injured Grimes, but who gets the starting spot when both are healthy? But with Fournier out of the rotation, and Derrick Rose possibly missing time with his toe injury today, there could be enough minutes for both young wings.
  • Mcbrhive where you at? With Derrick Rose leaving with an injured toe in the second quarter, Miles McBride got some unexpected burn. Deuce was able to show out with nine points and a steal, scoring on a smooth blend of pull-ups and rim attempts.

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