Suns 112 Knicks 107

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Last night’s basketball game was a tale of two cities. Or better yet two halves.

The Suns came into the game as the second best team in the league (or the first, depending on how you rank them). Although the Knicks beat Phoenix in a thrilling triple overtime earlier this year, talent wise they’re not on the Suns level. When talking about the Suns’ streak on Pardon The Interruption, the announcers assumed Phoenix would win tonight.

From the start of the game, it appeared the Knicks wouldn’t be much of a challenge to the Suns. On the first Knick possession Jared Jeffries nearly walked before turning over the ball with an errant pass. In the first 5 minutes the swingman would turn the ball over again, force a post up shot, and commit 2 fouls. Despite the poor start, New York held their own against Phoenix and more. Balkman had a dunk with almost 9 minutes to go to give the Knicks a 10 point lead. The Suns rallied back, but had a meager 3 point lead at halftime.

The Knicks were toe to toe in the first half with one of the best teams in the league due to an odd set of circumstances. With Marbury unavailable due to injury and Jeffries unavailable due to a lack of talent, Isiah Thomas had to improvise with the rotation. Lee, Robinson, & Balkman saw more time than they normally would, and it paid off. As usual Lee rebounded well (4 REB in the first half) and chipped in 6 points. The diminutive Robinson didn’t shoot well (1-7), but pulled down an astounding 6 rebounds and got Steve Nash into foul trouble. Balkman played defense well in Jeffries’ stead, and provided a spark off the bench. As a team, the Knicks held the Suns to a halftime offensive efficiency of 94.1, well below their yearly average of 116.6.

Additionally the Suns had no answer to Eddy Curry in the first half. The Knick center led all scorers with an 21 points, and did so in a highly efficient manner. Curry hit 7 of 9 from the field, and 7 of 10 from the stripe. Exiting the first half, it appeared New York was going to give Phoenix a fight to the wire.

But the wheels came off the bus in the second half for New York. Phoenix went to a zone defense that stymied the Knick offense. By playing zone they were able to nullify Eddy Curry’s low post dominance and forced the Knicks to beat them from the outside. Following games that the Knicks use a zone defense we usually end up writing something like “Detroit feasted on the outside shot” or “Pacers worked the ball to get any shot they wanted against the zone.” However the Knicks were unable to capitalize from the outside. Nate Robinson shot 4 of 12 in the second half, and Jamal Crawford was only 2 of 7 from downtown. The Knicks futility from outside combined with Curry’s impotence (only 4 second half points) gave the Suns a 13 point lead by the final quarter.

At that point, New York still had a final chance at a victory, but Isiah’s rotation would be his undoing. Curry left early in the fourth quarter with an injury, and Thomas chose Malik Rose to play the final 12 minutes. The veteran was largely a non-factor. Rose hit only 1 shot and had only 1 rebound to go with 2 fouls and a turnover. Renaldo Balkman, who helped stabilize the defense in the first half, played only 5 minutes in the second half. Instead of Balkman, Thomas inserted seldom used rookie Mardy Collins for the final quarter. Granted Frye was in foul trouble, Richardson looked hurt, and Jeffries still sucked, so Isiah’s options were limited. But Balkman had played well earlier, and has about 400 more minutes on experience over Collins. Predictably Collins was a non-factor (0 pts 2 ast).

Seeing Curry dominate was promising. Watching the Knicks unable to break the zone was disheartening. Having Renaldo Balkman provide a spark on defense was uplifting. Seeing Malik Rose close the game was dismaying. In the end the Knicks turned an encouraging first half into a disappointing second half.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

44 thoughts to “Suns 112 Knicks 107”

  1. I’m with you on playing Balkman ahead of Mardy Collins, but who should play before Rose? As unsavory a thought as it is the Knicks aren’t any more likely to win with Frye or Jeffries on the court than with Rose. The Knicks made a run in the fourth quarter and if not for Nash’s brillance it could have gone somewhere. But they got within six and he bangs a three, they score and he finds Stoudemire for a dunk or Barbosa for a three and it’s all for naught.

  2. To Isiah’s credit the Knicks did a good job of hanging around in the final minutes. I think they had cut it to 5 pts and had the ball but didnt execute.
    This seems to be Isiah’s style of play, its like he does a rope-a-dope and waiting for someone get really hot (like Crawford was in the middle of the 4th quarter). Its a tough way to win but it can make for some exciting finishes, unfortunately this wasn’t one of them.

  3. Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers… oh yeah, and poor shot selection.

    This team just gives away so many possessions it boggles the mind. The Knicks got five more shots than the Suns, out-rebounding them by four. But we gave up 5 more turnovers (21 to 16), essentially nullifying the work we did on the glass and what was for this team a reasonable defensive effort (kudos to Nate Robinson for his toughness on D). So many of our turnovers are a function of poor floor spacing and a failure to understand pace. When the announcers did their “swap” of color commentators, Dan Majerle, who was in the booth for the Knicks’ run, identified pacing as the key to the Knicks’ lead. I wish Crawford and Robinson would have been listening in. Slowly but surely the guards were seduced into picking up the tempo–and it wasn’t even like Phoenix did much pressing.

    A big part of why Curry was less involved in the second half is that we played at Phoenix’s pace beginning with the last few minutes of the first half. Almost no one else’s bigs can play at that pace. Curry, who is in much better physical condition this season, I thought was visibly worn down about midway through the third qtr.

    I didn’t have as big an issue with Isiah taking a gamble on Mardy Collins. He wanted a bigger perimeter defender, and could live with a non-factor more than a liability (i.e., Jeffries). On the other hand, it’s hard to get the move to Malik Rose. That’s a situation where I thought Isiah was unnecessarily impatient with Balkman. He sat Balkman following a sequence where he made two turnovers and a foul in a span of like 15 seconds. But, overall Balkman was effective. Rose, who hasn’t been a good defender in a couple years, by contrast seems to have earned a trust he does not deserve; apart from poor performance he seems to me to be one of the team’s most unfocused players, especially on offense. I buy that he adds value in the locker room, but not on the court. His play where he was caught gawking at Nash while Stoudemire ran right past him and dunked may have been the single worst play of the game. Who among us was surprised that happened?

  4. “His play where he was caught gawking at Nash while Stoudemire ran right past him and dunked may have been the single worst play of the game. Who among us was surprised that happened?”

    My jaw hit the floor on that play. Rose is usually very aware on the defensive end, and too assertive on the offensive end. He was neither last night. I like Rose’s desire, it’s a shame he doesn’t have a better physique to go with it.

    As for Collins, I don’t think it was a horrible move, considering the Knicks were just about out of options. The problem with choosing Collins for defense is that if Isiah wanted to concentrate on the Knicks defense, he had better options. You tell me which is a better defensive team:

    A. Collins, Robinson, Crawford, Rose, Lee
    B. Collins, Crawford, Balkman, Lee, Cato
    C. Collins, Crawford, Balkman, Lee, Frye

    I think B & C are both better defensive options than A. And with the way Rose & Robinson played last night both lineups would have been just as effective (C much more effective) than A.

  5. The Curry injury could unfortunately or perhaps fortunately prove to me the latest edition of “The Ewing Effect”. I think that the Marbury/Robinson-Richardson-Balkman-Lee-Frye lineup could prove to be the most effective possible for the current roster. We will see.

  6. In spite of the turnovers and Isiah’s rotation the Knicks still had a chance although very little of winning this game. Had Nate shot at a better rate the results could have been positive.

    Kudos to Jamaal for his running of the team ( 11 assists to 4 TO.)

    Nice job as always by Shallow Waters.

    It was a pleasure to watch the game and it was whole lot better that the last game in Miami.

    I look forward to a similar effort against Miami.

    Go New York, Go New York go.

  7. In the end, the Knicks did better than a lot of people expected. Now they need to switch their mindset from “beating the zone” to “stopping the 27-0 run in the first quarter.”

  8. just to be clear, losing a home game to anyone is nothing to be proud of. factor in that the Suns had a huge energy game the night before and that they pretty much coasted to victory in the second half and there’s not too much positive to take out of this. again, we’re past the moral victory stage, especially for home games. we need wins.

  9. Yeah, I’m with you there, Jon.

    Besides some decent individual play from some of the Knicks, there really was nothing positive about this loss.

  10. positive – fun game to watch
    positive – they did not get run out of the garden
    positive – they kept it interesting
    positive – bounced back from disastrous lost
    positive – Jamaal’s 11 assist

    shall I continue

  11. that’s a really low bar, confucius. maybe you don’t see the Suns much, but it was one of their lowest effort games since the first few weeks of the year. you say NY bounced back, they actually had a better chance to win the Miami game, when they cut it to 6 late and made Jason Williams hit two insane bombs to end it. it wasn’t a disaster, but again, we need wins. even if the playoffs are out of the question (not quite yet, but getting there), every team we finish ahead of likely means the Bulls pick one spot lower, that’s something solid to shoot for in my book.

    and how about Q not doing anything against his old team, what was that all about? very disappointing.

  12. Jon,

    I usually catch most Knick games and enjoy the games immensely when the Knicks compete.

    Isnt it possible that the Knicks defense may have something to do with the way the Suns performed? No that wouldnt be the case.

    New York did bounce back from the the loss to Miami. They could have rolled over to the Suns and no one would have blamed them. It is not a low bar that I set, but a recognition of a team that is showing resiliency to play hard when no one expects them to.

    It is too early in the season to start thinking end results. We havent even reached the All Star break.

    I saw alot of positives in the Knicks losing to the Suns by only 5. You harp on the negatives, I accentuate the postive.

  13. “a team that is showing resiliency to play hard when no one expects them to.”

    wow, you mean the team with by far the highest payroll in the league is actually trying most of the time (well, most of the time recently, except the Charlotte game and the first quarter in MIami)? thoroughly commendable, I’m really proud of those kids. or maybe you mean the way Isiah ran out of timeouts in consecutive games, costing us a real shot at the end? he should probably get a raise too, just for that. come on, man.

    “It is too early in the season to start thinking end results. We havent even reached the All Star break.”

    it’s too early in the season for the good teams, but we’re not one of them, at least not yet. if we lose tomorrow to Miami, we’ll be 18-27, meaning we’d need to go 22-15 to get to 40 wins, which is around where the final playoff spot should be. I don’t really think we’ve shown any signs we’re capable of a run like that this year,

    so yeah, I think it’s getting late early and we’d have a way better chance if we’d won two out of three of Washington/NJ/Miami instead of dropping all three. and I accentuate the positive plenty, but there are no moral victories right now, especially home games.

  14. Exactly.

    It’s not like we’re saying, “All hope is lost!” or “I hate the Knicks!”

    It’s just that they had a bad loss in Miami followed by (perhaps) a worse loss against Phoenix, putting them EIGHT games under .500.

    Undue criticism is wrong, but avoiding criticism as well is just as wrong.

    I don’t think any of the criticism they’ve received in these recent posts have been undue.

  15. Yes, Jon it is a fact that you have to overpay to get players to New York. This highest payroll is crap. The Knicks aren’t losing money. Is this payroll totally Isiah fault? No! He inherited a mess from Scott Layden and has done fairly decent job of putting together a team with plenty of upside. I have an idea, fire Isiah and re-hire Scott Layden.

    As far as Isiah’s timeout management – Ever thought Isiah’s use of timeouts enabled him to put the team in position to win the game.
    I don?t think any of the criticism they?ve received in these recent posts have been undue.

    ?but there are no moral victories right now, especially home games.?

    No one is talking about moral victories, but positives that can be drawn to be used in the next game. Playing well against Phoenix should give this team confidence to stick to Miami. It will be disappointing if they do not win the Miami game. Make no mistake about it, this team is rebuilding and these positives are building blocks for the future. You can?t tell me that all these close games played will not help them in the second half of the season. Maybe Isiah well learn to use his timeouts differently. The criticism is undue because I view the positives as building blocks, not moral victories.

    It possible for the Knicks to go 22-15 after the All-star break.

  16. “Yes, Jon it is a fact that you have to overpay to get players to New York. This highest payroll is crap.”

    The highest payroll isn’t crap. Our salary cap is so bad, it’s higher than the Suns + Spurs combined. It’s higher than the #2 team (Dallas) + the Bobcats.

    But it’s not the cost of the payroll, but the length. Even if we buy him out, Steve Francis is getting $17M/yr until 2009. We still have Malik Rose until 2009. We still have Jerome James on the books until 2010. Jeffries until 2011! If we don’t sign anyone, we might be under the cap in 2009. It’s that kind of inflexibility that just kills us.

  17. Being over the Cap is also a sign of a teams proficiency in terms of management…The Spurs and the Suns, the two best teams are making good management decisions and therefore are successful.

    Ny has the benefit of an enormous market but have failed ‘money management 101’ and consequently we have used our advantage against ourselves. Also, if you think the cap is overrated lets see where you stand on that issue when David Lee’s contract is up for negotiation and other teams can offer him twice the salary.

  18. mase: It’s not that the Knicks won’t be able to pay Lee, since you can overspend on your own players (bird rule). It’s that will Lee want to stay when the best free agent the Knicks can surround him with is guys like Jeffries & Jerome James? Or better yet will the Knicks be any good with only the players they’ve drafted & the dregs of free agency?

  19. “Yes, Jon it is a fact that you have to overpay to get players to New York. This highest payroll is crap. The Knicks aren?t losing money. Is this payroll totally Isiah fault? No! He inherited a mess from Scott Layden and has done fairly decent job of putting together a team with plenty of upside. I have an idea, fire Isiah and re-hire Scott Layden.”

    dude, I’ve defended Isiah’s GM job here quite a few times over the last few months. Layden was way worse, but that has nothing to do with what I’m talking about.

    and yes, I’m sure that if you include the luxury tax and no playoff revenues, they’re losing a TON of money, but Dolan didn’t care until this past offseason. I don’t even remember seeing Knicks revenues/costs broken out from overall Cablevision numbers, I don’t think he makes those numbers public (am I wrong on this?), but if I were him (GOD FORBID), I’d be embarrassed to do so also.

    “Ever thought Isiah?s use of timeouts enabled him to put the team in position to win the game?”

    nope, sorry. every other coach in the league manages to leave timeouts at the end of close games, that’s a must. do you want to go and break down those games, telling us each time he took a TO all game and what the score was to try to defend this statement? I didn’t think so.

    “No one is talking about moral victories, but positives that can be drawn to be used in the next game. Playing well against Phoenix should give this team confidence to stick to Miami.”

    this isn’t 12 year old kids in Little League, these are NBA home games. we blew out Miami already once this year, that should cover the alleged “confidence” department. but it doesn’t work that way, I’m sure they thought they could beat Phoenix too. it’d be pretty sad if they didn’t, no matter what the alleged “experts” were saying before the game.

    “It will be disappointing if they do not win the Miami game. ”

    yes, any home loss is disappointing, even Phoenix. no one is unbeatable, Chicago took out Dallas last night.

    “Maybe Isiah will learn to use his timeouts differently.”

    this isn’t the first time he’s been an NBA coach, this is one of the most basic skills. again, you cut him way too much slack. maybe he’s your cousin? or do you work in the MSG PR dept.?

    “It’s possible for the Knicks to go 22-15 after the All-star break.”

    you don’t mean the All-Star break, you mean starting after tonight’s game. and yes, anything is possible, but there’s nothing to show that there’s a reasonable chance of doing this. the Knicks aren’t the only team out there with “positive signs”, far from it. I’m as big a Knicks fan as anyone here, but if you’d like to bet on the above happening, I’d be happy to take the under on 22 wins, sadly.

  20. Agreed KB.

    The really vexing question though is what to do about the post-Isiah era. I mean, really. Who are the obvious candidates, either as coach or GM? To be clear, I’m not advocating keeping Isiah. It’s just that the other dimension to the team’s “inflexibility” is that it is not a very attractive job.

    Over the next several years the primary way the Knicks can add talent is through the draft. Although almost every other GM in the league is better than Thomas at the cap and at trades, he is among the game’s most astute talent evaluators.

    The Knicks have become the league’s–if not pro team sports’–cautionary tale; a case study in how NOT to do it. I’m not a big Bill Simmons guy but I’ll quote him. “What did Knicks fans ever do to deserve this?”

  21. I don’t agree that we’re inflexible moving forward, I’ve argued here a bunch of times that being under the cap is highly overrated by most people. and how is Isiah bad at trades? what specific examples? he’s signed some dud free agents but that’s just cash. now we have young and talented potential trade assets like Channing Frye, we’re way more flexible than when Isiah got here.

    and I love Bill Simmons, but you’ll note he’s been extremely quiet about the Knicks the last few months. for one thing, his Celtics are decidedly worse, for another, all of his Balkman/Rajon Rondo talk looks extremely overblown, and lastly, the Curry trade looks like a good one for NY as of right now (although the more we lose games this year, the worse it looks).

  22. I would have to disagree that the Knicks job is not an attractive one. If you want to argue that high lottery picks and capspace are the way to add impact players, then it’s a pretty bad job. However, this logic seems flawed. Amare, Dirk, Nash, Prince, Josh Howard, Gilbert Arenas, Tony Parker, Manu, etc. (or most of the best players on most of the best teams) all fell to the late lottery and beyond, and Sheed, Vince, A.I. have all been had, basically, for salaries and late firsts.
    The Knicks have, what looks to be, a good young core and a blank check of a payroll. With some luck, a good executive would be able to add the pieces (and maybe more so the attitude and consistency) the Knicks are missing.


    I’m not sure how you can, on the one hand, criticize the Knicks for losing to the Phoenix Suns by 5 points, then, on the other hand, say that the playoffs are out of the question. If the Knicks could consistantly beat teams like the Suns at home it seems they would be a playoff team (and maybe the best team in the East). Unfortunately, they cannot.

    “jon abbey Said:
    January 24th, 2007 at 10:49 am
    Phoenix is 30-2 since November 18, plus they?re in a serious race with Dallas for the #1 seed in which every loss is huge, and Marbury is likely out. anything?s possible, but I?m not holding my breath on this one?”

  23. “I?m not sure how you can, on the one hand, criticize the Knicks for losing to the Phoenix Suns by 5 points, then, on the other hand, say that the playoffs are out of the question.”

    huh? Phoenix isn’t the only game they’ve played, and the 5 point differential there is pretty deceptive. they were never in this game in the second half, regardless of the final score. but a loss is a loss, especially at home.

    “If the Knicks could consistantly beat teams like the Suns at home it seems they would be a playoff team (and maybe the best team in the East). ”

    forget about the Suns, our boys are 10-13 at home, they can’t beat anyone consistently anywhere. a non-embarrassing loss is still a loss, and I simply don’t think there’s much positive to be taken out of a home loss to anyone at this point. you guys keep talking about “Phoenix, Phoenix, Phoenix” like they’re immortal gods, but you ignore the fact that they really didn’t try very hard in this game (maybe you don’t watch them that much, they’ve been my second favorite team for three years now, so I’ve seen them play quite a bit). the Wizards game the night before was a big one for them, lots of emotion and a revenge game. they played really hard in that one and put out a lot of energy making sure the Wiz never got into the game, ending their 10 game home winning streak in decisive fashion. against us, they pretty much coasted through the second half of, we never challenged them after halftime. that was a second gear Phoenix team you saw out there, if they had a good reason to beat us by 25, I think they probably would have.

  24. now THAT was a promising half of basketball, 46 points for Jamal in his last 3 quarters. five of the sweetest words in the English language: Alonzo Mourning in street clothes.

  25. JAMAL CRAWFORD! I love hearing that sound at the Garden. This guy is so streaky…not since John Starks have the knicks had a guy that’s this off and on. But boy when he’s on Crawford is as good as anyone. I love seeing another team embarrased for a change. Had to say something this is amazing and it’s still not over.

  26. “Alonzo Mourning in street clothes.”
    This is really a different team without ‘Zo. Shaq was a non-factor, and no one really protected the paint for the Heat. Nonetheless, Jamal was just absurd tonight. Great basketball.

  27. “Mr Abbey need I say anything.”

    hopefully not, because what you said earlier still doesn’t make much sense. tonight was a different night, Steph back, Curry out, Jeffries off the bench, no Mourning. lots of good signs, great win, the best game of Crawford’s life, none of it matters if they don’t beat Milwaukee Sunday. Herb Williams said on the pregame “we need to win 7,8,9, 10 in a row”, which is basically all I was saying, no room for close losses at home to anyone at this point if they’re going to make a run at 40 wins. they need to start stringing together wins ASAP, tonight was a nice start, got to keep it going Sunday.

  28. Steph had a pretty nice game.

    Nice to see Jeffries out of the starting five. Anyone think that’ll be a permanent move or just until Curry comes back?

    Jerome James had a nice little spurt there. It would be great, though probably unlikely, to see more of that.

  29. to answer an earlier question, I coincidentally just saw this in today’s USA Today:

    confucius: “The Knicks aren?t losing money.” “are the Knicks a profitable organization?”

    Forbes: “They had an NBA-high $185 million in revenues for the 2005-06 season, but also topped the league with losses of $39 million.”

    so, that would be a big NO.

  30. Great win for the Knicks. Marbury was stellar with 13 assists and only 1 turnover. However, it appears that Q is still in a slump, or nursing his injured back. It may be time to give Balkman a start at SF, or maybe Lee. Any thoughts?

    Hopefully, they will carry the momentum into Sunday’s game. The Bucks have lost 11 of the past 12.

  31. Herb Williams also said in the pregame that Q has an elbow problem currently, that was the first I heard of that. this team seems to somehow play better when they’re a man or two down, though…

  32. “The Knicks have become the league?s?if not pro team sports??cautionary tale; a case study in how NOT to do it. I?m not a big Bill Simmons guy but I?ll quote him. ?What did Knicks fans ever do to deserve this??

    Well, for one it took them far too long to wake up and realize what was happening. Had their been this kind of awareness of how shitty Zeke was from day 1, the media would have picked up on it and he’d be gone by now. They got what they deserved.

  33. “hopefully not, because what you said earlier still doesn?t make much sense”

    Jon it appears to me that youare excellent at doing research and putting up numbers but do you actually understand the ebb and flow of basketball.

    What is there to understand? I said there were lots of postive signs in the loss to Phoenix. There are good losses and bad losses. The Phoenix loss was a good loss. Losses like that can build confidence in a team. Confidence needed to start a nice winning streak.

    If you cant understand that – then you dont know bball.

  34. Confucius and Jon, the Phoenix game was so 72 hours ago guys ;)

    On the serious side though, you both seem to be converging on the same place, just from opposing ends of the spectrum. This team–as flawed as it is–still should not be this bad. It shows enough flashes, even sometimes in losses, that the players, coaches, and fans are all justified in expecting better.

    It’s far too easy to overreach on what we learned vs Phoenix and in other losses when I see this team make the same fatal mistakes almost every game, win or lose: turnovers, bad shots, and an inability to identify shooters.

    On the other hand, I’m not so sure we saw nothing useful in the Phoenix loss. Does anyone remember Nate Robinson being such a pest defensively? I hadn’t paid much attention but didn’t recall Robinson playing so much on the ball defensively unless the Knicks picked up three-quarter court. Robinson played the first reasonable facsimile of screen-roll defense by a Knick guard I can remember seeing in a long time.

    Nash had 6 TOs, and most if not all were a direct result of Nate fighting over screens and forcing Nash to help. Of course, Nash punished him for going underneath the screen a couple times late, but *that’s* the Nate that can really help this team, especially with Marbury’s creaky knees.

  35. Wow what a great performance by Crawford. Great game. It was nice to all the Knicks rooting for Crawford to get 50.

  36. confucius, you’re still not reading or understanding what I have to say, especially if you label me as a stats guy, far from it. sure, there were positive signs on Wed, there were positive signs in the last three quarters of the first Miami game too, it’s a sad and very rare game when there are no positive signs even on an individual basis. in retrospect, maybe Jamal’s 23 in the 4th finally woke him up, that would be great. at the time, looked like the same old Jamal, asleep for three quarters, woke up sometime in the 4th, not nearly enough.

    but the main reason we were competitive against Phoenix at all was Curry’s first-half dominance and he didn’t even play last night and the main reason we played so well last night (before Jamal went nuts) was Marbury’s return and 8 or 9 first quarter assists. the Knicks have played plenty of good single games so far this year, my point is that they need a streak and they need it now to stay in the playoff race (this was Herb Williams’ point also in the pregame, maybe you can lecture him about how the ‘ebb and flow’ of the game works also). again, last night was a good start, let’s see them keep it going.

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