The Knicks continued their seven-game road trip with a heartbreaking 115-114 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.
Here are the key takeaways …
-The Knicks were without Obi Toppin, who was ruled out before the game with a strained left hamstring. Tom Thibodeau went with his typical starting five of Alec Burks, Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson.
The Suns came in with an NBA-best record 50-12 record, but they were without their starting backcourt of Chris Paul and Devin Booker.
– Randle came out leading the charge for the Knicks, getting to the free-throw line four times in the early minutes on his way to a quick eight points. But the Knicks had no answers for Mikal Bridges, who had 11 points in the quarter to lead the Suns.
Randle led all scorers with 14 first-quarter points, but no other Knicks had more than three points, as the Suns took a 26-24 lead after the first 12 minutes.
– Thibodeau went with a younger lineup to get things started in the second quarter, playing Barrett with Jericho Sims, Immanuel Quickley, Miles McBride, and Cam Reddish.
The Suns maintained their lead through the second, as Bridges led a balanced Phoenix attack, but the Knicks hung right with them, as the lead stayed within six points the entire half. Phoenix led 58-55 at the break, with Bridges posting 17 points. For the Knicks, Randle led all scorers with 20 first-half points, while Barrett added 10 of his own.
– In the early minutes of the third, the Knicks rallied to take a 69-67 lead, thanks to some strong three-point shooting. A Burks four-point play then put the Knicks up by four with over seven minutes left in the quarter. A 10-2 Knicks run, finished by a Robinson easy bucket down low, then forced a timeout from Monty Williams.
The third quarter has been a sore spot for the Knicks all season long, but they flipped the script on Friday night, though it was not without incident. With 2:40 left in the quarter, Randle and Cameron Johnson got in each other’s faces, and Randle threw an extra shove Johnson’s way, bringing both teams together until cooler heads prevailed.
After a video review, double technical fouls were called on Randle and Johnson, but a second technical was also called on Randle for the extra shove for “escalating the situation.” Randle was ejected with his second tech, finishing with 25 points, seven rebounds and four assists. The Knicks held an 86-76 lead at the point Randle was tossed.
The Knicks outscored Phoenix 38-23 in the third, taking a 12-point lead into the final 12 minutes.
– A quick 6-0 run from the Suns in the early moments of the fourth prompted a Thibodeau timeout as the lead was cut down to eight. A 12-4 Suns run cut the Knicks lead down to four as the Knicks offense began to stall.
In the final five minutes, things started to get dire for the Knicks, as a Jae Crowder four-point play cut the lead to three, stirring the Phoenix crowd into a frenzy. Just as the Suns fought all the way back to tie the game, a Robinson dunk and Quickley three put the Knicks up five with 2:09 left.
– In the final minute, Barrett missed a turnaround jumper on one end, and Crowder drilled a three at the other, putting Phoenix up 112-111 with 30 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, Barrett missed a driving layup, but there again was Robinson, picking up his ninth offensive rebound and tipping the ball in to give the Knicks a one-point lead with 15 seconds left.
Cameron Payne attempted a go-ahead layup on the next possession, but Robinson was there to disrupt the shot and force the miss. Burks then made his first free throw but missed the second, allowing one last chance for the Suns, and Johnson, who set a career high with 38 points and nine threes, hit a buzzer-beating three off the glass to give the Suns a wild win.
The Knicks face the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night at 10:00 p.m.