Suns 118, Knicks 97: Youngsters get tons of playing time as starters disappear

The New York Knicks fell to the Phoenix Suns on Friday evening by a score of 118–97. The starting team completely disappeared as Julius Randle contributed just nine points, four-assist, and six rebounds. Having played in 32 minutes, Tom Thibodeau needed his best player to step up and provide a sufficient performance, but he was unable to get going and was pulled early in the game.

The highest scorer of the game for the Knicks was point guard Kemba Walker, who contributed 17 points over 23 minutes. While Walker was their best offensive player, his defense was lackluster, as was the entire starting unit. Not a single starter earned a positive +/-, allowing Phoenix to post an absurd stat line.

One of the keys for the Knicks was to limit Devin Booker, the Suns’ top scorer. Over 35 minutes, Booker recorded 32 points, hitting 14-of-27 shots from the field and picking up three assists. Chris Paul added 14 points and 10 assists, in line with his season average. Every single starter from Phoenix scored double digit points, which allowed Thibodeau to give his youngsters some added minutes in the loss.

For the first time this season, rookies Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride earned some playing time. Grimes featured in 16 minutes, picking up three points and four rebounds. McBride posted two points over four minutes, while second-year guard Immanuel Quickley added 16 points over 20 minutes, hitting 50% of the shots from deep. Quickley has been on a tear recently, justifying starter-level minutes.

The Knicks are trending down as of late, especially with the starting team struggling to produce on a regular basis. Randle had posted 20 or more points over his last two games, but this was his first outing of the season, where he earned single-digit points.

The team needs more for their All-Star power forward if they want to be a top team, and this disappearing act cannot be a frequent occurrence. Thibodeau will undoubtedly have a few critical words for his squad after an embarrassing performance against Phoenix, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier as the Knicks prepare to take on the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, and Chicago Bulls consecutively in the coming days.