The New York Knicks hope to ride the momentum of a win over the Los Angeles Lakers to a second straight home victory versus a Western Conference title hopeful when they seek to cool down the visiting Phoenix Suns on Friday night.
The Knicks have alternated losses and wins in their last six games, and in fact have followed each of their previous five wins with a loss. Two of those came after potentially momentum-building victories over the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers.
“We can be really good,” Evan Fournier noted after pouring in a team-high 26 points in a 106-100 win over the Lakers. “We just have to trust how we play, and when we have a way to play, just stay with it.”
The Knicks have won two straight at home, but that came immediately after a 104-98 home loss to the Orlando Magic. That downer had followed an encouraging 92-84 home win over the Indiana Pacers.
Now here comes the hottest thing going in the NBA. The Suns have won 14 in a row, including beating the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers in the past four days to begin a four-game trip.
A showdown with the Brooklyn Nets is on tap for Saturday night across town.
Phoenix’s winning streak has included its last six road matchups. Neither the 115-111 win over the Spurs nor the 120-115 triumph over the Cavaliers came easily.
Winning close games sure beats losing close games, noted Suns star Devin Booker, who didn’t make the playoffs until his sixth season in Phoenix.
“I’m just trying to find ways to win,” he insisted this week. “That’s what it comes down to. That’s the reputation I’ve been trying to break after my first few years in the league, of being at the bottom of the NBA. So if you want to see winning basketball, you tune into the Suns. We play together. It’s a ‘we score’ mentality. We have a lot of talented players, and any night could be anybody’s chance.”
The winning streak has demonstrated that. While Booker leads the team in scoring in those 14 games with a 23.6 average, nine other guys have averaged at least 7.5 points.
In that span, JaVale McGee has shot the best (66.3 percent); Deandre Ayton has been the top rebounder (12.0); Chris Paul has led the club in both assists (10.3) and steals (2.2); and Mikal Bridges has compiled the best overall plus/minus (+154).
The Suns have enjoyed recent visits to New York, winning three straight by an average of 16.3 points. Last year’s 118-110 win, in which Booker scored 33 points, was the closest of the three.
The trip to New York provides an annual spotlight on Paul, who has played his entire career in the Western Conference and thus has never played more than once at Madison Square Garden in any year.
He has recorded six double-doubles in his 11 visits, with a three-game streak having ended last year when he contributed 20 points, six assists and five rebounds to the win.