The New York Knicks play host to the Suns in a game that favors Phoenix by 3.5 points
Two of the NBA’s bottom-feeders will be facing off at Madison Square Garden Thursday night in what is sure to be a matchup for the ages (sarcasm intended). The Knicks look much improved from last year to this year, but they still have the second worst record in the Eastern Conference at 11-30 overall. On the other side, the Suns are a lackluster 16-24 on the season, but they are still theoretically in contention for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs, so they certainly will be trying to bring everything they got considering they still have something to play for.
Back on January 3rd, the Suns bested the Knickerbockers at home by a final score of 120-112. Devin Booker was electric as usual in that game, scoring 38 points in 38 minutes while shooting over 50% from the field. Aron Byanes and Kelly Oubre Jr. helped seal the victory by tacking on an additional 49 combined points. The Knicks played pretty well in that one as five players put up double-digit scoring figures, but the Suns were able to pull away in the end by finishing the game on a 13-7 run. I am concerned though that this game will not be nearly as close this time around.
The biggest difference between the first matchup between these two teams and the game on Thursday is that the Knicks will not have Marcus Morris Sr. who is dealing with a neck injury. Not only did Morris Sr. put up 25 points in the first game between these two, but he is also currently leading the Knicks in points per game this season (19.1 PPG). It is also worth noting that Marcus Morris Sr. snags 5.5 rebounds per game which is the 4th most on the team. The absence of the former Kansas first round pick could make it a long night for New York.
The Knicks will simply not be able to contain Devin Booker in this game. He manages to always put up gaudy numbers (22 PPG over his career). Booker is also continuing to improve each year in the league. His 26.1 points per game this season is the second highest total of his career. The 23 year old shooting guard is also making over 50% of his field goals which is easily the highest mark of his career. There is little doubt that the Knicks will be able to contain Booker, especially without their leading scorer.
If New York wants to win this game, they will have to keep in check the other players surrounding Devin Booker, specifically the Phoenix big men. Last time out, the Suns’ centers combined for 35 points. On top of that, Kelly Oubre Jr. put up 29 points himself, which is tied for his second highest scoring output in a game this season, although he is expected to miss the game due to a concussion. It will be interesting to see what the Suns can do when guard Ricky Rubio returns to action after the birth of his child. Sure, he only scored nine points in the first meeting between these two teams, but he also recorded 10 assists, 4 rebounds, and a plus-minus of +6. If New York hopes to have a chance in this one, they will have to keep in check all players on Phoenix not named Devin Booker
With all that in mind though, I still think the Suns will likely win this one and cover the spread. The Knicks will be without their leading scorer as I previously mentioned. Also, New York is just 1-7 in games that Marcus Morris Sr. has missed this season. On top of that, the Knicks are 20th in points per game allowed while the Suns come into this game with the tenth best scoring offense in the NBA. Phoenix will cover the spread and win this game handily.