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The Suns managed to find another way to lose a very winnable game. The Knicks were still able overcome a career high 36 points by Jared Dudley and pull out the victory despite playing with a skeleton roster.

With Christmas over, it's time for the Suns to get back to work. The schedule makers blessed the Suns with bookend home games around the holiday, and the team was in no danger of being highlighted in a Christmas day game, so they should be fresh coming off of time off with family and friends. Hopefully they weren't getting too fat and happy while tonight's opponent, the New York Knicks, were busy getting coaled up by the Los Angeles Lakers.

When: Wednesday, December 26, 2012, 7:00 PM local time (9:00 EST)

Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

Watch/Listen: TV: FSAZ, Radio: 620 KTAR

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Last Meeting:

The Knicks won the previous meeting between the teams 106-99 at Madison Square Garden on December 2nd. New York used a 35-22 second quarter to put separation between themselves and the Suns. Phoenix closed the gap to six at 91-85 with 6:24 left, but couldn't completely recover from the disastrous second quarter. Carmelo Anthony had a game high 34 points. Marcin Gortat had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns. Raymond Felton dominated the point guard matchup with 23 points and seven assists versus Goran Dragic's nine points and five assists (foreshadowing alert).

Team Bios:

New York Knicks: 20-8

Points per game: 102.6 (T-5th) Points allowed: 96.5 (T-12th)

Injuries: Marcus Camby, Raymond Felton and Steve Novak have all been, or still are, nursing injuries, but all are expected to play. Amar'e Stoudemire is not expected to play for a few more games. Rasheed Wallace is also out and Iman Shumpert is recovering from a long term injury.

The Knicks are coming off of a hard fought loss on Christmas day against the surging Lakers at the Staples Center. Carmelo Anthony, as he has done all season, led the Knicks with 34 points, but he also logged 43 minutes in the game. Four other Knicks played at least 34 minutes in the game, including Tyson Chandler who clocked in with 40.

New York is off to a sizzling start, but has tapered off recently with three losses in their last five games, including home losses to the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls. The team has incorporated many new pieces around its remaining core players and has seemed to do so rather seamlessly. This is not the same Knicks team that ended the 2011-12 season. The additions include Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, Ronnie Brewer, Rasheed Wallace, Pablo Prigioni, Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby. Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert return, but neither has seen action this season. The only remnants from last season's roster are Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith and Steve Novak. Four players. That's it.

One of those players happens to be early season MVP candidate Carmelo Anthony, which is quite an important returning piece. Melo is currently second in the NBA in scoring (28.3) and actually boasts the highest eFG% of any year of his career (.531) thanks in part to blistering shooting from three point range (.437). Did I mention he played 43 minutes yesterday? Felton and Kidd seem to be the newcomers who have been most impactful, orchestrating an offense that was stagnant all too often last season.

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Phoenix Suns: 11-17

Points per game: 97.3 (12th) Points allowed: 100.9 (26th)

Injuries: None, as usual.

The Suns are coming off of a savage beating at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night in what turned out to be the fourth time this season that the Suns have lost by more than 20 points. The final score of 103-77 wasn't really indicative of the Suns play, because it wasn't really that close. The Suns seemed more concerned with complaining about the officiating than competing in the game and the Clippers smelled blood.

The Suns look to recompose themselves in the getaway game before a daunting three game road trip to close out the year. The near future holds grave implications for the Suns, as they will either reverse their current trajectory and fight for a playoff spot or find themselves hopelessly out of the race in the next two to three weeks. It's already gut check time for the Suns. Unfortunately, recent indications don't adumbrate favorably.

After a stretch that provided a glimmer of hope on the defensive end, that spark is fading into the gloaming. The Suns are now mired in 29th in opponent field goal percentage (.471) and 30th in opponent three point field goal percentage (.405). The Suns are an average offensive team with no go to scorer that plays hideous defense. I think that sums it up pretty thoroughly and tersely.

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What To Watch For:

Player X vs. Goran Dragic: Goran has been playing so poorly lately that I pretty much expect him to get violated on a regular basis. Dragic is now averaging 12.6 points (on 41.2% shooting) and 5.8 assists for the month of December. The Suns have played 11 games so far in the month. Dragic is supposed to be the team's best player. Flip a coin. That will tell you whether Dragic will score more than 10 points, considering he's pulled off the feat only seven times in his last 14 games. Throw in the nasty habit of picking up early fouls and it becomes alarmingly clear that he needs to get his sh$# together. Tonight sounds good to me.

Fireworks: The New York Knicks are on pace to set NBA records for three pointers made (11.5) and attempted (29.2). Despite launching bombs at such a prodigious rate the Knicks rank third in the league in three point field goal percentage. The Suns, as previously mentioned, are dead last in the league at defending the three. Tonight we will see how the matchup of best vs. worst unfurls.

Rebounding: Finally, an area where the Suns don't suck worse than their opponent. The Suns are an impressive -3.5 in rebounding differential (good for 25th in the league) while the Knicks are a lowly -4.2 (three spots below Phoenix at 28th). Both of these teams get owned on the glass on a regular basis. Maybe this could be a point of emphasis for the Suns to focus on in the game since the Knicks don't have a superfluous number of areas of weakness.

Tired Legs/Playing the Suns/Dignity: Not only did the Knicks play a fiercely contested game against the Lakers yesterday, but now they're playing the Suns. The legs might not be quite as fresh since key players logged heavy minutes. It might be hard for New York to get up for this game after the spotlight of a Christmas day matchup. The Knicks may be bummed about playing a back-to-back and missing out on holiday festivities. The Knicks may be disinterested in playing a team of the Suns caliber and overlook them. The Suns may be pissed off after the humiliating rout they suffered through last game. Any or all of these may culminate in an unexpected victory for the Suns.

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Key Stat: The season high for scoring in a game by an individual Sun this season is 26. Both Dragic and Shannon Brown have hit this mark once. Carmelo Anthony has scored at least 26 points 17 times. Seventeen. I set the over/under for a Sun scoring 30 at 27 games. We are officially over. Anthony has scored at least 30 points 11 times this season. The Sun is a star, but the Suns have no star.

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The Final Word(s):

I really like the dynamic coming into this game based on the way the last few days have played out for both teams. The Suns would definitely appear to have the advantage based on rest and intangibles. The only problem I see in forecasting a Phoenix victory is that the Suns just aren't very good at all right now.

The Suns are just 3-9 against teams with winning records, as of right now, on the season. So while a victory isn't outside the realm of plausibility, I don't know that I'd give the Suns the same coin flip of having a good game that I gave Dragic earlier.

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The Suns dropped a very winnable home game to the injury-riddled New York Knicks. It came down to a couple of late possessions which are normally the difference between decent bad teams and good winning teams.
PHOENIX — For 47 minutes and 14 seconds, the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks played an imperfect basketball game with the Knicks missing two of their best players and the Suns lacking their...

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Recap:

The Suns were able to recover from a slow start, after New York jumped to a 13-7 lead, thanks to the efforts of Jared Dudley, who scored 13 points in the period on 5-7 shooting. The Knicks used a balanced attack, without the option of hero ball by Melo, to keep pace with the Suns after Phoenix regained the lead. Marcin Gortat and Tyson Chandler were both equally effective for their respective teams. The Suns finished the quarter leading 29-27.

The Suns shooting became more tepid to start the second quarter, making only one of their first seven shots, and the Knicks seized the lead with a pair of three pointers. The Knicks then widened the gap by making their first five shots from downtown in the period. It was a complete shock to everyone that the Suns were getting torched from deep. After pulling to within 40-39 on a Dudley dunk, his third of the year, New York went on a 14-4 run to extend their lead to 11 at 54-43. Suns fans got a scare when Goran Dragic was fouled from behind on a fast break and landed hard on his hip. J.R. Smith received a flagrant one for the foul, but it was due more to the spill than any dastardly intent. The Suns managed to manufacture zero points out of two free throws and the extra possession and New York went into halftime leading 54-44 after a 27-15 period.

Dudley led all scorers in the first half with 17 points on 6-10 shooting. The Suns colander defense gave up 50% shooting from the field (22-44) and 54.5% from three point range (6-11). The Suns were still overwhelmed by a Knicks team playing without the second leading scorer in the NBA and their starting point guard. In Felton's absence, Dragic, four points on 2-6 shooting and three assists, still lost the first half point guard matchup to the 39 year old Jason Kidd. Not only that, but the Knicks, 28th in the league in rebounding, were +7 on the Suns including a six to three edge on the offensive glass.

The Suns started the second half without Dragic, who suffered injuries to his wrist, elbow and hip from his violent fall before halftime. A Jared Dudley three midway through the quarter sparked a 20-4 run as Phoenix took the lead 74-72 before settling for a tie at 76 going into the fourth quarter. Dudley, Gortat, Brown and Beasley all scored multiple times during Phoenix's frenzied comeback. Dudley finished the quarter with a game high 26.

The fourth quarter was a slugfest with both teams trading haymakers and the lead going back and forth. Dudley tried to carry the team to victory with 10 of the Suns 21 points in the period. After falling behind 95-90, the Suns rattled off seven consecutive points on a three by Sebastian Telfair, a jumper by Shannon Brown and two free throws by Dudley. Then J.R. Smith happened. A player who is noted for his ability to make difficult shots sunk a closely contested jumper to tie the game at 97. The Suns had the ball with the ability to play for the last shot, but Telfair royally screwed up and lost the ball out of bounds. That set up the final possession for the Knicks with one second remaining. Inbounds pass to J.R. Smith. Fading, twisting, fall away jumper. Ballgame. Suns lose (it sure felt more like a Suns loss than a Knicks win) 99-97. Ugh.

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Player of the Game:

Jared Dudley. His career high 36 points (11-17 from the field and 5-8 from three) kept the Suns in the game. What a shame to waste such a brilliant effort in a loss.

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Comments of the Game:

Can't wait till Rip Hamilton solves all our problems.

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Dragic could easily beat anyone on the court with his dribble...why is he not doing that?

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6:08 IN SECOND

We should have a bet each game on when Alvin Gentry's clothes deal gets mentioned.

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Dragic and Beasley have really improved on their air ball passes.

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Amar'e is probably laughing at how bad we are.

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Wow. Everyone just focus on Dudz. He is playing so well right now. Making all the right decisions.

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Amazing how good we are.

Keeping it tight against a team without their 6 best players.

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(of J.R. Smith's buzzer beater) the 1 out of 5 players you don't want to get the ball...

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The Good:

The Suns once again showed grit and resolve by crawling back into a game after getting behind. Disregard the fact that it was against a Knicks team that was without five players better than the Suns starters. Give credit where credit is due. For more on this check out the bad section.

After looking completely nonplused on the defensive end in the first half, the Suns turned up the intensity. The second half strategy of actually running out on shooters led to just 3-11 shooting from three for the Knicks. Even the closing shots were well defended. It seemed like the increased energy level in the second half was almost tangible. Which leads to the question... where was that in the first half?

Gortat managed well in his matchup against New York's premiere center, Tyson Chandler. Marcin had 13 points and nine rebounds in a solid effort.

Feeding the hot hand. The Suns recognized that Dudley was feeling it and kept running the offense through him to the tune of a career high 36. This was a great example of awareness by the Suns coaches and players to capitalize on Dudley's huge night.

J.R. Smith. Though his criticism is sometimes well deserved, he went for 27 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals. He also managed to basically single-handedly win the game by making trick shots at the end.

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The Bad:

The Suns trailed by 14 (68-54) before making their push to get back in the game. The Suns have made a pattern of crawling back from huge deficits at home, but there have also been quite a few games, especially on the road, where they died in the hole they dug. This is a very disturbing pattern for the team which seems like a defining characteristic at this point in the season. It ended up spelling their doom tonight, as they caught up but couldn't seal the deal. It's just too hard to come back from those types of deficits in the NBA.

Goran Dragic continued his recent stretch of uninspired play with 4 points on 2-6 shooting and 3 assists before missing the second half due to injuries from a scary fall. The Suns played much better in the second half with Goran off the court.

It's amazing to me that our 26 and 27 year old point guards couldn't do a better job of wearing down the 39 year old Jason Kidd. Kidd's big night of 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds is not only a testament to his greatness, but a glaring example of porous defense at the point.

Morris and Scola were both invisible. Maybe the Suns are better off going small?

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The Ugly:

Dragic's fall. Hopefully he will be ok. Best Wishes, Goran.

Finding a way to lose the damn game down the stretch. Sitting here typing this I'm still completely discomfited how the Suns managed to screw up in such spectacular fashion in the closing seconds. In what is a microcosm of the entire season, the Suns failed to execute down the stretch while another team rose to the occasion. The Knicks (arguably) 6th best player is a better closer than anyone on our (much more talented) team.

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Final Thoughts:

This sucks.

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With Christmas over, it's time for the Suns to get back to work. The schedule makers blessed the Suns with bookend home games around the holiday, and the team was in no danger of being highlighted in a Christmas day game, so they should be fresh coming off of time off with family and friends. Hopefully they weren't getting too fat and happy while tonight's opponent, the New York Knicks, were busy getting coaled up by the Los Angeles Lakers.

When: Wednesday, December 26, 2012, 7:00 PM local time (9:00 EST)

Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

Watch/Listen: TV: FSAZ, Radio: 620 KTAR

----------

Last Meeting:

The Knicks won the previous meeting between the teams 106-99 at Madison Square Garden on December 2nd. New York used a 35-22 second quarter to put separation between themselves and the Suns. Phoenix closed the gap to six at 91-85 with 6:24 left, but couldn't completely recover from the disastrous second quarter. Carmelo Anthony had a game high 34 points. Marcin Gortat had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns. Raymond Felton dominated the point guard matchup with 23 points and seven assists versus Goran Dragic's nine points and five assists (foreshadowing alert).

Team Bios:

New York Knicks: 20-8

Points per game: 102.6 (T-5th) Points allowed: 96.5 (T-12th)

Injuries: Marcus Camby, Raymond Felton and Steve Novak have all been, or still are, nursing injuries, but all are expected to play. Amar'e Stoudemire is not expected to play for a few more games. Rasheed Wallace is also out and Iman Shumpert is recovering from a long term injury.

The Knicks are coming off of a hard fought loss on Christmas day against the surging Lakers at the Staples Center. Carmelo Anthony, as he has done all season, led the Knicks with 34 points, but he also logged 43 minutes in the game. Four other Knicks played at least 34 minutes in the game, including Tyson Chandler who clocked in with 40.

New York is off to a sizzling start, but has tapered off recently with three losses in their last five games, including home losses to the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls. The team has incorporated many new pieces around its remaining core players and has seemed to do so rather seamlessly. This is not the same Knicks team that ended the 2011-12 season. The additions include Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, Ronnie Brewer, Rasheed Wallace, Pablo Prigioni, Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby. Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert return, but neither has seen action this season. The only remnants from last season's roster are Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith and Steve Novak. Four players. That's it.

One of those players happens to be early season MVP candidate Carmelo Anthony, which is quite an important returning piece. Melo is currently second in the NBA in scoring (28.3) and actually boasts the highest eFG% of any year of his career (.531) thanks in part to blistering shooting from three point range (.437). Did I mention he played 43 minutes yesterday? Felton and Kidd seem to be the newcomers who have been most impactful, orchestrating an offense that was stagnant all too often last season.

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Phoenix Suns: 11-17

Points per game: 97.3 (12th) Points allowed: 100.9 (26th)

Injuries: None, as usual.

The Suns are coming off of a savage beating at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night in what turned out to be the fourth time this season that the Suns have lost by more than 20 points. The final score of 103-77 wasn't really indicative of the Suns play, because it wasn't really that close. The Suns seemed more concerned with complaining about the officiating than competing in the game and the Clippers smelled blood.

The Suns look to recompose themselves in the getaway game before a daunting three game road trip to close out the year. The near future holds grave implications for the Suns, as they will either reverse their current trajectory and fight for a playoff spot or find themselves hopelessly out of the race in the next two to three weeks. It's already gut check time for the Suns. Unfortunately, recent indications don't adumbrate favorably.

After a stretch that provided a glimmer of hope on the defensive end, that spark is fading into the gloaming. The Suns are now mired in 29th in opponent field goal percentage (.471) and 30th in opponent three point field goal percentage (.405). The Suns are an average offensive team with no go to scorer that plays hideous defense. I think that sums it up pretty thoroughly and tersely.

----------

What To Watch For:

Player X vs. Goran Dragic: Goran has been playing so poorly lately that I pretty much expect him to get violated on a regular basis. Dragic is now averaging 12.6 points (on 41.2% shooting) and 5.8 assists for the month of December. The Suns have played 11 games so far in the month. Dragic is supposed to be the team's best player. Flip a coin. That will tell you whether Dragic will score more than 10 points, considering he's pulled off the feat only seven times in his last 14 games. Throw in the nasty habit of picking up early fouls and it becomes alarmingly clear that he needs to get his sh$# together. Tonight sounds good to me.

Fireworks: The New York Knicks are on pace to set NBA records for three pointers made (11.5) and attempted (29.2). Despite launching bombs at such a prodigious rate the Knicks rank third in the league in three point field goal percentage. The Suns, as previously mentioned, are dead last in the league at defending the three. Tonight we will see how the matchup of best vs. worst unfurls.

Rebounding: Finally, an area where the Suns don't suck worse than their opponent. The Suns are an impressive -3.5 in rebounding differential (good for 25th in the league) while the Knicks are a lowly -4.2 (three spots below Phoenix at 28th). Both of these teams get owned on the glass on a regular basis. Maybe this could be a point of emphasis for the Suns to focus on in the game since the Knicks don't have a superfluous number of areas of weakness.

Tired Legs/Playing the Suns/Dignity: Not only did the Knicks play a fiercely contested game against the Lakers yesterday, but now they're playing the Suns. The legs might not be quite as fresh since key players logged heavy minutes. It might be hard for New York to get up for this game after the spotlight of a Christmas day matchup. The Knicks may be bummed about playing a back-to-back and missing out on holiday festivities. The Knicks may be disinterested in playing a team of the Suns caliber and overlook them. The Suns may be pissed off after the humiliating rout they suffered through last game. Any or all of these may culminate in an unexpected victory for the Suns.

----------

Key Stat: The season high for scoring in a game by an individual Sun this season is 26. Both Dragic and Shannon Brown have hit this mark once. Carmelo Anthony has scored at least 26 points 17 times. Seventeen. I set the over/under for a Sun scoring 30 at 27 games. We are officially over. Anthony has scored at least 30 points 11 times this season. The Sun is a star, but the Suns have no star.

----------

The Final Word(s):

I really like the dynamic coming into this game based on the way the last few days have played out for both teams. The Suns would definitely appear to have the advantage based on rest and intangibles. The only problem I see in forecasting a Phoenix victory is that the Suns just aren't very good at all right now.

The Suns are just 3-9 against teams with winning records, as of right now, on the season. So while a victory isn't outside the realm of plausibility, I don't know that I'd give the Suns the same coin flip of having a good game that I gave Dragic earlier.

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