The 2010s were a decade to forget for both the Phoenix Suns and the New York Knicks. On Friday night, both teams will be looking to continue building the foundation for a better 10-year run when the Suns host the Knicks.
Both teams were off Thursday after playing New Year’s Day, when the Suns saw their late comeback fall short in a 117-107 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Knicks extended a rare winning streak by routing the Portland Trail Blazers, 117-93.
The loss ended the Suns’ two-game winning streak, but head coach Monty Williams was encouraged considering Phoenix trailed the Western Conference-leading Lakers by as many as 36 points before cutting the gap to seven in the fourth quarter, when Los Angeles had to reinsert its starters to ice the game.
The defeat capped a 2-2 road trip for the Suns, who have lost nine of 11 overall. But six of those losses were by 10 points or fewer, a key development as Phoenix tries to build a team that can compete for the franchise’s first playoff berth since the spring of 2010.
“It was a good road trip — we had a chance to make it great, but it was a good road trip,” Williams said following Wednesday’s loss. “We certainly know we could have had all four games, and that’ll keep you up at night. But I’m proud of this team’s competitive nature. We just don’t give in. To me, that’s a great start for a team that’s building a program.”
The Knicks have tried numerous rebuilding projects since their most recent trip to the playoffs in the spring of 2013, when they made the franchise’s only trip out of the first round this century.
New York’s latest reload seemed to hit a snag during a 4-20 start that cost head coach David Fizdale his job, but interim coach Mike Miller has steered the team to a 6-6 record and wins in the last three games — the longest streak since a three-game run in November 2018.
On Wednesday, Mitchell Robinson — who was acquired with one of the draft picks the Knicks obtained from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Carmelo Anthony in September 2017 — provided a glimpse at his potential by scoring 22 points on 11-of-11 shooting, which tied the franchise record for most made field goals without a miss.
“Anytime you win three in a row, it feels really good,” Knicks forward Marcus Morris said following Wednesday’s victory. “But the biggest thing is we are starting to find our identity.”
The Knicks last won four straight Dec. 10-16, 2017, back when Jeff Hornacek was their head coach. The only remaining player from that team is point guard Frank Ntilikina.
The game Friday marks the opener of a five-game homestand for the Suns and a four-game road trip for the Knicks. The two teams are scheduled to complete their season series in New York on Jan. 16.
–Field Level Media