Written by William Lee
Monday night’s match up featured two teams headed in opposite direction since the New Year. Phoenix came into New York with a two game losing streak, with their budding young star Eric Bledsoe sidelined after getting surgery last week to remove a piece of his meniscus. Bledsoe is expected to miss 4-6 weeks, which just might kill their playoffs hope with how ultra-competitive the Western Conference is. New York on the other hand are on a four game winning streak, and are only half a game behind the eighth seed in the disaster that is the Eastern Conference, even with the pathetic start this season.
New York broke open the game on a 15-0 run, holding Phoenix to almost five minutes without a score. The highlight of the run was when Carmelo Anthony blocked a Gerald Green layup and sprinted down the court, knocking down a 30 foot three pointer in stride to give the Knicks a double digit lead. Anthony also had a four point play during the run, scoring 13 points and grabbing five rebounds in the first quarter. Goran Dragic also could not be stopped on the other end, scoring 12 points in the first quarter, but had little help from his teammates, resulting in a 28-21 Knicks edge after the first quarter. Phoenix attempts the most threes per game, launching 26.4 per game from beyond the arc, and are second in threes made per game, making 9.8. In the first quarter the Suns were very content with launching threes, attempting nine in the first quarter, but they had a cold start to the night, making only three, and shooting 31.8% for the quarter.
The Knicks would start the second quarter on an 8-1 run to take the largest lead of the game, leading by fourteen points with 8:44 remaining in the first half by a score of 36-22. Goran Dragic continued his strong play in the second quarter, finishing the first half with a total of 20 points 4 reb and 4 assist. Dragic knocked down a buzzer beating three to end the first half to trim New York’s lead to single digits 52-43.
Miles Plumlee pummeled the Knicks in the third quarter, getting the Suns back in the game with his grit and hustle. He scored six points in an 11-2 run to tie the game with 9:00 left in the third quarter on a put back dunk to make it 54-54. Plumlee had 12 points and 11 rebounds, six of it on the offensive glass, and also played great defense stealing the ball three times, and getting a couple of blocks in the game. New York would respond, going on a 12-2 run to get the lead back up to double digits, 66-56 with 3:26 remaining in the quarter. Phoenix did not do themselves any favors, settling for nine threes during the period, and only converting on one of them.
The fourth quarter the Knicks would become stagnate on offense, going one on one almost exclusively on every possession. While on defense the Knicks could not contain any dribble penetration, be it Goran Dragic or Leandro Barbosa. Barbosa kept the Suns in the game, scoring the initial eight points in the fourth quarter, getting to the rim at will because New York always switched a big on him on pick and roll plays. Barbosa exploded for 14 fourth quarter points. Dragic would get by Raymond Felton on consecutive plays, drawing an and-one on the first one. Dragic finished the game with 28 points 8 rebounds and 4 assist. The Suns got up by five points with a little less than five minutes to play in the game.
With how inept the Knicks offense looked so far in the fourth quarter, five points seemed like a lot, but New York got a couple lucky bounces to go their way on offensive rebounds one by Andrea Bargnani and another by Kenyon Martin for easy put backs to keep the Knicks in the game. Then Carmelo Anthony who was a one man show, not in a good way… going 1/5 in the fourth quarter and dribbling out the clock all quarter, passed the ball out of necessity to Raymond Felton because Suns draped all over him, who then knocked down a clutch three to give the Knicks a 92-90 lead with 53.1 seconds remaining in the game. The game would go to overtime on a questionable foul on Kenyon Martin, who seemingly blocked Barbosa’s shot attempt. Barbosa would hit the clutch free throws to send the game to overtime, knotting the game up at 92-92 at the end of regulation.
Kenyon Martin set the tone early in the overtime, lobbing a perfect alley oop pass to Carmelo Anthony on a back door cut to the rim. Then following up a Raymond Felton miss with a put back dunk to give the Knicks a four point lead with 3:21 left in overtime. Anthony would hit a clutch turnaround fade away jumper to push the Knicks’ lead to five, he had 29 points 16 rebounds and 4 assist for the game. Phoenix was held without a basket in the overtime period scoring only on free throws. Miles Plumlee who is a career 49.4% free throw shooter sank two free throws to trim the Knicks’ lead to three. With more isolation basketball for the Knicks leading to nothing, it gave Phoenix plenty of opportunities to win the game still. The Suns called their last timeout to advance the basketball to the frontcourt with 3 seconds remaining in the game. With no time outs New York executed a great strategy and fouled on purpose on the inbound, to not allow the game tying three attempt. Channing Frye would be sent to the line, missing his first free throw. Frye then made his second, but Phoenix was not over the foul limit yet and would have to foul twice to get any hope of winning the game. They were unable to do so, and the Knicks escaped with a 98-96 victory.