From Marc Berman:
This was the first time all pandemic season the Knicks played in front of a real, live, half-packed, hostile crowd.
They didn’t handle it well. They blew a seven-point lead late in the third quarter. Taj Gibson and Julius Randle later lost their composure. And the powerhouse Suns routed the Knicks, 128-105, before a boisterous crowd of 8,063 — the NBA season’s largest — at Talking Stick Arena on Friday night.
Despite the loss, the Knicks (37-30) are still half-game ahead of the Hawks in the battle for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
All the frustration of the Knicks’ collapse boiled over midway through the fourth quarter when Gibson went after Chris Paul while the Suns guard was bringing the ball up-court. Gibson body-checked Paul to the floor like it was hockey, with seven minutes left.
Gibson was called for a flagrant foul, and Paul jawed with Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau over the infraction.
“It was a physical play,’’ Gibson said. “I talked to Chris. When you’ve played so many years, you know everybody on the job by first name. It was nothing personal it’s completion. It was a stupid foul on my end. I got to be better.’’
The more important thing is that the Celtics lost to the Bulls (can you imagine how frustrating it must be to trade for a star player to pair with your own star player and then see your star player go on the COVID list for 11 games? The Bulls are like night and day now that LaVine is back), so the Knicks’ chances of avoiding the play-in game went up despite this loss. This lowers their chances at maintaining the #4 seed, but A. Who the heck knows, right? The Hawks still have to win their games and as we’ve seen, the Knick opponents seem to lose games to some weird ass opponents while the Knicks tend to only lose to legitimately superior teams to them and B. The Knicks might still win the next two games, in which case, they’ll be in great shape.
But yeah, tough loss, no doubt about it. Hopefully they rebound on Sunday.