Studs and Duds from Knicks’ narrow and sloppy loss to Suns at home

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) drives past Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic (20) in the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks went up against a short-handed Phoenix Suns in the second game of this home stand. With no Kevin Durant or Bradley Beal in the lineup for Phoenix, the Knicks came out of the gate lackadaisical, and that was the flow of the entire game.

Defense is “will” as much as it is a skill, and New York has not been playing to their potential for extended stretches defensively. The Knicks ultimately lost the game 113–116.

Studs: Jalen Brunson has been stellar in his last five games

Jalen Brunson was the engine for the New York Knicks in this one. A slow start from the Knicks saw Brunson score 12 points in the first quarter on 6/8 shooting and erupt for 35 in the contest. In his last five games, Brunson is averaging 29.6 points per contest. The variety in which Brunson scores the basketball is phenomenal. 

Studs: Julius Randle picks things up in the second half

Julius Randle had himself a third quarter. Following a slow 1-5 start to the game, Randle erupted for an incredible 17-point third quarter to pull the Knicks within three heading into the fourth quarter. 

“It’s a Randle Rampage,” Mike Breen said as Randle erupted in the third.

In what was the best stretch of basketball this season from Randle thus far, his shot selection was consistent, fluent, and aggressive. A plethora of attacks in the post should be the “bread and butter” of what Randle is facilitating offensively. Throw in timely assist, there is a perfect balance to what Randle brings and should continue to coast on throughout the season. 

Studs: Immanuel Quickley furthers his Sixth Man of the Year argument

Immanuel Quickley was rated second best off of the bench in the latest “hoops hype” rankings. The Lakers tax is real, but Quickley continues to shine and may have even come across this ranking earlier in the day. Scoring 18 off of the bench against the Suns, Quickley is averaging 18.6 in the last five wins for the New York Knicks.

In a stunning conclusion to the loss against Phoenix, Quickley saved his best, scoring seven and cutting the lead to just three early in the final quarter.

Duds: RJ Barrett is out of form offensively

RJ Barrett has had a fall from grace as of late since his return from migraines. After missing three games due to knee soreness, Barrett returned to form, averaging 24 points per game. Since the three-game migraine stint, his points have dropped to 14 per game over the last four contests on abysmal shooting splits. This inconsistency on Barrett’s part has been part of the reason for New York’s struggles as of late. 

Defensively, Barrett has taken the mantle of guarding the opposing team’s best player often. The assertiveness it takes to be aggressive offensively and defensively takes a toll on many NBA players. The depth of the Knicks suggests there is room to go around defensively, yet, they have had poor showings against both the Heat and the Suns. Phoenix held a 15-point lead in the second quarter after erupting out of the gate on a 25–14 run to start the game due to a hot start from Eric Gordon. 

Duds: The Knicks’ supporting cast falters

The supporting cast for the Knicks outside of Quickley combined for just 20 points on 35% from the floor. Quentin Grimes got the start in this one, only scoring three points in 20 minutes. Brunson tied the game with 21 seconds left to play, but it was ultimately Devin Booker with a huge three to take the win on the Knicks floor with 1.7 to go in the contest. 

Takeaways from the Knicks’ loss to Pheonix

This one is a game the Knicks should have won handily. This season, with the talent the Knicks possess, the games they should win are must-win. There is a clear talent gap between the shorthanded Suns and the full-strength Knicks, but New York’s slow start and weak defense said otherwise. Now a record of 9-7, Lamelo Ball and company come to town as the Knicks look to improve on Tuesday.