Game Notes: Knicks at Suns
Suns drop 30+ points in every quarter.
by Dennis Tarwood / @tuffyr
There’s plenty in life that isn’t fair. Tax Day’s coming in two weeks. Jason Richardson couldn’t watch his Spartans move on to the Elite Eight because he had a game tonight. And Mike D’Antoni had to go back to sweet home Phoenix in a palindrome-ish Friday night tilt for the New York Knicks (26-45) against the Suns (45-26).
On top of life’s other inequities, the Suns could finally field a lineup without significant injury in their 72nd game of the season. Considering the attrition across the League, that’s downright unsportsmanlike; a healthy Knicks squad would still struggle against their philosophical older brothers.
The results were both predictable and cruel for D’Antoni’s new team: a 132-96 loss that gave fans enough time to claim their free tacos and still make it back in time for the final buzzer.
Amar’e Stoudemire made an impression against a team with the cash to pursue him this summer by racking up a ridiculously efficient 18 points on 3-6 shooting (12-15 from the line), but the star of the game had to be the jelly donut that passed for New York’s interior defense.
Suns players had to take a number so they could share the opportunity equally to post up their local Knick. Robin Lopez, the only legitimate 7-footer to play, took advantage with 10/7 in the first half and 14/7 total in a mere 21 minutes. The Suns have been notoriously deficient on the boards due to their running game, but they also scooped up 56 boards in a game that was effectively over by halftime.
Suns coach Alvin Gentry didn’t show too much concern for the miles on the odometer for his team heading into the postseason: “I don’t think anyone gets tired in the Playoffs. I think that’s why sometimes you see rotations get cut down.” Still, 10 Suns scored at least 8 points in the win while no Sun worked longer than 28 minutes all night. If there’s benefits in running a short roster in the Playoffs, it could mean the Suns are built better for the regular season than a deep Playoff run.
Jason Richardson appreciated the outcome, tossing up a quick 17/7 so he could rush back to the bench for an early rest and a chance to gather updates on the Michigan State-Northern Iowa game. “Once I was out of the game, I was asking the fans behind me; they were keeping me informed.”
Was Jason worried the game at hand might be so close that he couldn’t track his alma mater’s progress? “I kinda figured we were gonna handle them. They gave us a good battle, but I knew we were going to get the win.”
Steve Nash agreed with the bravado on some level. “We found a nice balance out there (at this point in the season)… we’re playing more consistently.”
The man most in need of finding his confidence in Phoenix is probably Leandro Barbosa, having returned recently from wrist troubles. His shot is still not consistent despite a 7-12 shooting night (18 pts total) and he still is not in rhythm with his teammates, best illustrated by hesitating over a Steve Nash bounce-in-place pass and then lurching forward for the rim instead of his usual single smooth motion.
His conditioning continues to improve, though he admits freely it’s not there yet. But the rest of him has healed. “I have a new hand; I’m very happy about that. I’m just trying to get comfortable with my teammates… that will come little by little.”
The Knicks found little solace in Al Harrington’s shooting gem (24 pts, 9-19 FGs, 5-8 from 3) and David Lee’s glasswork (13 boards). The evening was better explained by looking down Tracy McGrady’s measure of work: 2-11 from the floor, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists that can only be explained by packing one’s own scorer for road trips.
Danilo Gallinari, the young Italian forward, still thinks inside rebounding position involves getting inside the arc; he spent most of his time imitating a cape, draping himself over the back of a Suns defender.
Yet most of the New York media focus postgame centered on Toney Douglas’ tough night. The latest savior at the glamour NYC position struggled through a 2-11 shooting night and could only muster four assists against two turnovers in 37 minutes.
Mike D’Antoni stayed sanguine over Toney’s troubles. “This is one of the few games that Toney Douglas has played bad… One of the best things he does is disrupt them defensively. He can’t get away from that by worrying about not making a shot.” David Lee offered his vote of support as well for the rookie. “I have a lot of faith in Toney as an offensive player and a defensive player.”
The previous answers, Sergio Rodriguez and Chris Duhon, played a collective 9:32, all belonging to Rodriguez in garbage time. It would seem there’s nowhere else to place that faith this season.
The Suns, winners of six straight, continue to shake their fists at fair play by starting a pastry-sampling tour Sunday through Minnesota, Chicago, New Jersey, Detroit and Milwaukee before returning to the Valley with a Playoff spot likely locked in. The Knicks continue their Contractually Obligated Tour with a stop in Utah Monday.
– The Suns passed out “Clash of the Titans” Thunderstix to patrons behind the baskets at halftime. Apparently, there’s a big hipster irony contingent at most Suns games.
– Steve Nash’s most difficult shot probably came in the Suns locker room after the game when he sunk his towel deep into the cart across the room over a crowd of local reporters. It was probably the first time he had a contested shot all night.
– An informal poll of the media room ranks the Spurs as a feared opponent for the Suns in the first round of the Playoffs despite missing Tony Parker and the crumbling of the Merlin Wall, Tim Duncan. For all their bravado when San Antonio visits, Suns fans seem to be shaken by previous history with the Spurs. One fan worked through a series of scenarios to find a hardship that could be visited upon Manu Ginobili that would cause him to suffer and also miss that series without bringing too much bad karma upon the fan. Eventually, some kind of family illness took the day.
– UPDATE: As of Saturday, the Suns’ karma came back on them as Robin Lopez will miss the cream puffery with bulging disks in his back. Considering Gentry’s insistence on the worthlessness of home court advantage, the Suns’ proximity to a playoff berth, and the aforementioned road trip opponents, there’s no interest in putting the young seven-footer on a series of planes.