The Knicks hit the Garden on Friday night to even up their record against Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns.
Following an evisceration by James Harden and the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, the Knicks welcome the streaking Suns to the Garden and look to move to 4-4 on the early season. The Suns are coming off a victory in Washington where they came back from down 22 points and are seeking to extend to their current two-game win streak.
The Suns have made headlines recently, since they dumped head coach Earl Watson after just three games into the season and have fielded trade offers for disgruntled point guard Eric Bledsoe, who legendarily tweeted “I Don’t wanna be here” on October 22. Yesterday, Basketball Insiders’ Mike Scotto reported that the Detroit Pistons offered Phoenix a package that included Reggie Jackson and a first round pick, but it’s unlikely that the Suns will accept this deal.
Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis missed Thursday’s practice with an illness and is listed as questionable for Friday’s game, but Fred Kerber of the NY Post reports that he will likely play.
Suns: Eric Bledsoe OUT (“don’t wanna be here”), Alan Williams OUT (knee), Davon Reed OUT (knee), Brandon Knight OUT (most unlucky player in the NBA).
Keys for the Knicks
The Knicks offense sources directly from Kristaps Porzingis, who is averaging 27.9 points per game and has scored 30 or more points in five out of the Knicks seven games this season. KP is coming off his worst game of the season against the Rockets, where he scored only 19 points on 7-of-18 shooting, including 0-for-3 from beyond the arc. He’s got an interesting matchup against Marquese Chriss, who has shown a bit of scrappiness against Porzingis in the past. Last season in December, Chriss and Porzingis got into a bit of a scuffle, resulting in Chriss throwing Porzingis to the ground:
Marquese Chriss' out here trying to punk the Porzingod pic.twitter.com/whMtriSgak
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) December 14, 2016
I think Kristaps has a bit of a revenge gene in him. Remember when Nikola Jokic put up a career high 40 points against Porzingis in the Garden last season? KP responded to Jokic and the Nuggets earlier this week with a career high 38 points. Coincidence? Maybe. I’d expect Porzingis to play with a little extra fire with Chriss guarding him.
With Porzingis, Enes Kanter (13.9 points per game) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (15.6 points per game) have proven to be the other capable scoring options. Hardaway Jr. has proven to be a bit erratic with his scoring, tallying just six points in the season opener, but then scoring his season high of 34 points five days later against in Cleveland. During his first tenure with the Knicks, THJ did nothing outside of scoring; no assists, no rebounds, nothing. In the early season, Tim has shown the ability to distribute (current season high was eight assists vs. the Cavaleirs) and snag rebounds (season high seven rebounds vs. the Rockets). It’d be nice if he could continue to fill up the stat sheets in every category.
Enes Kanter is 0.1 rebounds per game away from averaging a double-double. He’s been a bit of a pleasant surprise this season, providing a different kind of energy in the Knicks starting lineup that they’ve been lacking for years. He’s relentless on the boards, but needs to be more consistent on defense. He’ll be matching up against former Knick Tyson Chandler, who isn’t exactly a threat offensively, so it should be a fairly easy defensive assignment for Kanter.
Fueling the Suns this season has been the usual culprit, Devin Booker (22.1 points per game), in addition to newcomer Mike James. James is a cool story. The 27-year-old rookie has grinded from being a small college player at Lamar University to playing overseas in Croatia to catching the eye of the Suns, who signed him to their Summer League team in 2015, and then back to overseas. I’d imagine the Knicks spent a lot of preparation time on deciding how best to cover Booker, which should be a challenging task for their wing defenders. While Booker is the main threat, it will be key that the Knicks don’t underestimate T.J. Warren, who dropped 40 and 10 on the Wizards.
Knicks–Suns tips off at 7:30 p.m. on MSG Network. It’s Friday Night Knicks!