Despite a decent first half and a strong showing by Emmanuel Mudiay, the Phoenix Suns outshined the Knicks at the Garden to the tune of 128-110.
When your team has a number of young promising prospects and a coach who is obsessive about their success and development collectively and individually, you expect them to have hard-fought wins and even harder-fought losses.
This was not one of those.
The New York Knicks took on the then-six-win Phoenix Suns and lost by 18.
Emmanuel Mudiay Strong Throughout
With Tim Hardaway Jr. unavailable due to injury and Noah Vonleh temporarily benched due to foul trouble, starting point guard Emmanuel Mudiay took the reins in the first half, scoring 18 points, dishing four assists, and grabbing three rebounds. He made light work of the worst defense in the NBA, getting into the paint and getting himself to the line repeatedly.
Mudiay was the benefactor of a few sly, clever dishes. Some of the assists went in and others further dropped the Knicks field goal percentage. Either way, Mudiay carried that successful first half into the second, scoring another 14 points by the end of regulation. He ended the night shooting 12-of-21 from the field, 2-for-6 from three, and 6-of-7 from the free throw line.
Kevin Knox Early Start
Everyone seemed to be enamored with Kevin Knox’s early play. Knox shot 4-of-11 in the first half with most of the action coming in the first quarter. 13 points on 11 shots isn’t ideal for anyone, but a rookie shooting 2-of-4 from behind the arc certainly is. His best highlight was tipping his own shot back into the basket, showing some scrappy abilities. It reminds me of a forward I used to love.
Kevin Knox scrapping and clawing to tip his own miss in ?
Love this fight from the rook. pic.twitter.com/gzIcmLyvzA
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) December 18, 2018
Suns’ Keys to Defeat
From tipoff it looked like the Suns’ premier players were going to do some real damage to the Knicks. Rookie Deandre Ayton began the game 4-for-5 from the field, and the Suns’ first five points all came from Devin Booker, making his All-Star bid. Although the Knicks wound up leading by the half, it didn’t last long. Their 17-point lead dwindled to nothing as T.J. Warren and Jamal Crawford got hot in the final two periods of action.
The Suns scored 41 in the third alone. The Knicks? 17. The former ‘Bocker Crawford even set a career high in assists. The Knicks’ zone defense—a crutch for the altogether horrible defenders—has been receiving the finger as the culprit, but there’s enough blame to go around. The zone made the Knicks looks like a college team, and like a college team, talent outsmarted and outplayed their gimmicky tactics.
- The last few games, teams have seemingly keyed in on Enes Kanter early so that he doesn’t have the chance to demoralize their bigs. They can bring help because Kanter is not known for passing the ball out of the paint. Once it’s in his hands close to the basket—that’s it. The closer he gets to the basket, the more likely he is to never give it up, even to the detriment of himself and the team.
- Garbage time legend Mario Hezonja scored nine straight points in the fourth to bring the Knicks within 13, but it didn’t help. He ended the game shooting a reasonable 6-of-11.
- Courtney Lee looked more comfortable tonight. With more time, he could be a formidable addition. Hopefully, his calming, synergistic presence can help the Knicks gel as a unit.
- The Knicks played a decent first half but bombed the complete second half against the Suns. They didn’t give up a wealth of threes as usual, but why would they need to when the Suns can score 60 points in the paint without breaking a sweat?
Monday night, the Knicks missed rim protection and scoring outside of Mudiay. Hopefully, their next outing against the Sixers goes a bit better.