Despite a sluggish start in an early Saturday game, the Phoenix Suns were able to hang on for an ugly win against the struggling New York Knicks.
The Phoenix Suns got off to a beautiful start. After winning the tip off, they got into a nice half court set and swung the ball around the perimeter several times before finding Eric Bledsoe open for a 3. He drilled it.
Things looked a little sluggish from here, with Markieff Morris, Alex Len, and Goran Dragic all missing some easy shots. But the Suns looked relentless in their drives to the basket, and wanted to push the fast break. And the New York Knicks couldn't come up with any baskets.
Dragic started to get rolling. Eric Bledsoe came up with several steals. The Suns kept pushing the fast break, and even though they missed some easy ones, they started to build a lead.
Until they hit a drought, and let the Knicks right back in. Oddly, it wasn't Carmelo Anthony that kept the Knicks around. It was guys like Jose Calderon and Jason Smith. Calderon hit a couple of 3s, and Smith was going to work in the post.
Suns 24, Knicks 21
The second quarter looked a little helter skelter to start. The Suns and Knicks went back and forth, and both teams coughed up several turnovers. Suns continued to miss easy shots at the rim. The Suns just looked like they were in cruise control.
Bledsoe looked pretty dialed in on defense. He had a steal and fast break slam, but was being an overall pest.
Despite arguably being the best Suns player in the first quarter, Dragic did not see the court until there were five minutes left in the quarter. Jeff Hornacek went with the three point guard lineup with Tucker at the 4 and Keef at the 5 to end the quarter, but the Knicks got out to a 7 point lead against it.
The Suns just looked like a team not used to playing so early in the day. They looked sluggish and could not get into a rhythm. Isaiah Thomas didn't look aggressive. Keef shot 2-8 from the field. Plumlee played 8 atrocious minutes (he had a -9 plus/minus). The Suns shot 39% from the field (New York shot 38%, yet still led). They just did not look good. Bledsoe and Dragic were the saving graces, but even they missed easy shots.
Also, Keef picked up another technical foul at the end of the half. That's 3 in the last 2 games, and 6 on the season for Keef, for those of you keeping track at home.
Knicks 47, Suns 44
Keef made up for this technical foul by hitting all four of his jumpers to open up the third quarter, and drawing a charge.
The Suns closed in on the Knicks' lead behind Keef's scoring, but they still could not come up with enough stops. The teams continued to trade baskets.
Sloppy play continued. Thomas looked a little more engaged. A Marcus Morris 3 and Thomas 3 point play kept the Suns within one point.
Keef ended up with 12 points in the quarter. Seems like he may have gotten a word or two from the coaches at half time. It worked.
Knicks 68, Suns 67
Thomas hit a 3 to reclaim the lead for the Suns for the first time since the second quarter, and then Mook Morris drained another one. Alex Len had a tip-in putback. Suns on a 12-0 run when Knicks call a time out. It's Suns 75, Knicks 68 with 8:42 to go in the game. The Suns looked poised to take over the game.
And then boom, 6-0 run by the Knicks. Suns let them right back in.
It was 75-74 Suns before Thomas scored on a drive, and Bledsoe got fouled on a fastbreak drive. He made both free throws. After a pair of Carmelo Anthony free throws and a Gerald Green 3, the score was 82-76 Suns with 5:40 to go.
Hornacek returned to the 3 point guard lineup. Bledsoe got to work with an and-one and another trip to the free throw line on the next possession.
Every time the Suns started to pull away, Anthony would come up with a big shot. Dalembert had some big dunks too.
With 2:58 to go in the game, Phoenix took a timeout with an 89-86 lead. After a Thomas free throw, a Keef jumper, and a huge 3 from Thomas, the Suns stretched their lead to nine with 1:34 left to go. Things were looking good for the Suns. Knicks timeout.
The Knicks couldn't come up with anything, and a Bledsoe drive and subsequent pair of free throws iced the game. Suns win!
It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win. Solid play down the stretch to close out the game.
FINAL SCORE: Suns 99, Knicks 90
Eric Bledsoe had his fourth double double of the season, with 25 points and 10 rebounds.
Isaiah Thomas and Markief Morris, despite the slow first halves, ended up with 22 points and 19 points, respectively.
Suns shot 44% overall, but 40% from 3. They held the Knicks to 39% shooting overall.