The visit of the Phoenix Suns at the Garden at times felt like a bizarre procession with the New York Knicks simply inept at shaking off their opponents. Did the Knicks not execute their game-plan well?
With 53.1 seconds on the clock, Raymond Felton scored a crucial three-pointer for the Knicks to regain the lead, 92-89. Poor shot selection from Anthony Carmelo with 10.6 seconds left – he missed a 15 foot open jump shot – allowed Leandro Barbosa to level the score with free throws after a controversial foul by Raymond Felton, and Carmelo nearly committed the same mistake with 47.2 seconds remaining in overtime. It was a tired effort from Carmelo at the end of a grinding, physical evening, but the Knicks survived by the skin of their teeth.
“It was a total team effort again,” assessed Mike Woodson. He stressed the solidity in the defense in his post-game talk. Indeed, the Knicks won it at the back, keeping the Suns to 35.5% shooting and allowing just four points in overtime.
For a very long time it had looked as if the Knicks wouldn’t need overtime to claim victory. New York got off to a very decent start. With 4:02 minutes left in the first quarter the Knicks sped away from their own back court after a turnover; Shumpert passed it to the omnipresent Anthony Carmelo, who hit the bucket from downtown. It was a sweeping and fast move, as if the Knicks were beating the Phoenix Suns, a young and pacey side, at their own game.
The move oozed ball movement, unselfishness and understanding; in short all the qualities that the Knicks have been demonstrated during their 2014 renaissance. Encouragingly, the Knicks have become more than a one-man-show. They scrambled in defense, holding off the Suns and the much-feared perimeter play of Phoenix. The flow and transition in the Knicks’ game came naturally. Truthfully, Anthony Carmelo was in superb form again as he set the pace in the first quarter with 13 points, leading the Knicks to a 28-21 lead. Raymond Felton chipped in with 7 points. Carmelo would go on to score 29 points, 16 rebounds and four assist over 46 minutes.
The Knicks machine rolled on, but not without spluttering – and almost coming to a full standstill. Goran Dragic scored a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to cut New York’s lead to nine points, 52-43. The Slovenian roamed around the court, and his footwork gave the Knicks plenty to think about. Dragic top-scored at the half with 20 points.
But folly is never far away when it concerns the Knicks: totally lethargic, the Knicks allowed the Suns a way back into the game. New York and the Garden cringed as the tension became palpable. Phoenix got a 11-2 run after the interval to tie the game at 54. Three-pointers by Felton and Carmelo provided much needed relief. The Knicks took a lead of seven points into the final quarter.
The Suns went hard at it and their pace and gusto were too much for the Knicks to take. Brazilian Leandro Barbosa played hugely off the bench. He drained and pained the Knicks with his creativity, penetration and shooting. With 14 points he forced overtime.
The Knicks should have never looked back after the first quarter, but the cliche goes that NBA only becomes interesting in the last quarter – a little too interesting for the Knicks this time, but they got their redemption in the end.