Game Notes: Knicks at Suns
Amar’e's return snuffs the Suns’ season twice-over.
by Dennis Tarwood /@tuffyr
The Phoenix Suns’ ‘10-11 season ended Friday night after an extended illness, marked by a 121-96 win by the New York Knicks in the first return appearance for Amar’e Stoudemire since he left Arizona for the increased love only a fully-guaranteed max contract could provide.
Attending physician and Suns head coach Alvin Gentry diagnosed the Suns’ illness pregame as a lack of defense and rebounding due to an overly complicated defensive scheme ditched weeks ago and a lack of size and effort to rebound. Friends and family were present in the season’s final breaths, though many spat on the season on their way out. No outstanding measures were taken to save the patient’s life, including executing an average defense, attempting to rebound (59-34 Knicks advantage), or successfully running a half court offense.
The Knicks held the pillow down on the face of the Suns’ season throughout the putative contest, outscoring the Suns in each quarter. The Suns stopped struggling after a 38-26 third quarter punctuated by a 14-0 Knicks run midway through the frame.
Stoudemire (23 points on 18 shots, 9 rebounds) sported the same smile most of the night that he wore after the final game of the ‘09-10 Suns season when asked about free agency. Fans greeted him with a standing ovation marred by relatively few dissenters during introductions, though they didn’t hesitate to celebrate his second foul early in the second quarter.
“It was great (to hear the fans cheer),” Stoudemire noted afterward. “It let me know the fans are still appreciative of all I put forth on this court and all the perseverance through injuries.”
Amar’e took every opportunity to live out his role as a New York star from shaking hands with reporters while he laid down on a foam roller to making sure ESPN and sideline cameras caught him grinning during a timeout before joining the huddle. He even carefully arranged his black “Amar’e” zipped hoodie postgame with his “ISREAL” striped backpack strap to remind everyone he’s still on Twitter.
The Suns’ simplified defense allowed the Knicks to shoot 50 percent from the floor and better from the three-point line (51.5 percent). Raymond Felton also racked up an ugly triple-double (23/11/10) on a rebound garnered in garbage time after being reinserted to track down said stat. STAT and Ronny Turiaf congratuated Felton in the timeout following the achievement which also came with 40 percent shooting from the floor and five turnovers.
That simplified defense comes not because Gentry really understands why the more sophisticated defense failed but because it worked last season and there didn’t seem to be any more switches on the life support machine that still functioned. Before the game, he acknowledged that he thought the team he inherited could only succeed if they adopted a more complicated scheme to compensate for their lack of size. But he felt the results bore out that it couldn’t work, especially after the trade that meant little time to reinstall the defense.
Or, perhaps, Gentry knows exactly what’s wrong with his squad but doesn’t get to choose his own players. He makes it clear nearly every game that he won’t play 11 in his rotation regularly and notes the absence of a power forward occasionally. (Please send a PF in lieu of flowers.)
As of press time, it’s uncertain if the Suns’ 2010-2011 campaign is an organ donor and if Steve Nash (14 points, 9 assists) has been put on ice in preparation for being airlifted to a patient on life support elsewhere.
Almost no one had answers regarding the demise of the season after the game. Dr. Gentry kept his comments postgame terse while Grant Hill, looking like his favorite pet just ran into traffic while he watched, could only repeat “I don’t know” as the response to every question asked. Reminded that they play the Knicks again in New York City on January 17th, Hill exclaimed, “Oh, don’t remind me!” (Laws on abusing corpses in New York state are quite clear.)
Suns fans rended their garments and wailed before leaving early; they appeared anxious to put back on their victim role, recalling the early D’Antoni days and how awful the future looks. Look no further than Sunday when the Cavaliers appear in town to understand why they feel such anguish.
The Knicks take their show to Los Angeles to play the Lakers and allow Stoudemire another stage on which to keep it real. It must be true; it was on a backpack strap.
- Josh Childress received his first start as a Phoenix Sun after a series of jokey lineup changes between Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni and Gentry right up to tip. Apparently, the knee-slapper about the guy you don’t want on your team starting against your old mentor was only funny for 3:30. Childress was quickly replaced and then returned only after the game was well out of hand. Hopefully, he found treating his career like a punchline just as humorous as Gentry did.
- Not only did the Suns fail to stop the Knicks at double-digit points, but they failed to score 100 points themselves. This prevented depressed Suns fans from solving their pain with free tacos. Beyond that, the fourth-quarter T-shirt toss was canceled in respect for the deceased. Also, no one was left in the stands to catch them.
- Danilo Gallinari did not play due to his sprained left knee.
- The University of Oregon cheerleaders visited and performed, leading to the opportunity to see a duck chase a gorilla into the stands. The gorilla, of course, was chasing a pizza. Sir David Attenborough must have felt like he was being punk’d.
- Timofey Mozgov played only four minutes of filler in the fourth quarter before being ejected for an elbow directed at Robin Lopez’s face. Lopez seems to have a hittable face. Still, expect a suspension for the young Russian to follow.