The Phoenix Suns defeated the New York Knicks 128-110 at Madison Square Garden on Monday.
In his second game back after returning from a hamstring injury, Devin Booker scored 38 points and dished out two assists. Rookie center Deandre Ayton finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds in the victory.
Kevin Knox, whose performances have improved significantly over the past week, had 17 points in a losing effort. Enes Kanter (13 points, 10 rebounds) posted a double-double, while Emmanuel Mudiay (32 points) was New York's leading scorer.
Blowout Loss to Suns Provides Silver Lining for Rebuilding Knicks
Losing to the previously six-win Suns stings. Giving up 72 points over two quarters in a loss to the Suns stings even more.
Mike Vorkunov @MikeVorkunov
Knicks gave up 31 in the 2nd quarter to the Suns, then gave up 41 in the 3rd. They've now allowed 30+ points in 53 quarters this year — 41.7% of all the quarters they've played this — and given up 39 or more points 10 times. In related news, Knicks were getting booed in the 4th.
At the end of the day, a bad defeat to a fellow lottery team isn't the worst thing in the world. The Knicks are clearly tanking, so whatever they can do to improve their odds of a top-three pick is worth it in the long run.
A loss to Phoenix in particular could ultimately prove impactful since the Suns own the NBA's worst record (7-24), with little hope of turning things around. The Suns are a direct rival to the Knicks in the race to the bottom.
Knox and Mudiay at least gave fans something positive to take away from Monday night. The former seems to have responded to David Fizdale's critical approach, and the latter is finding his footing in the Big Apple.
Knox is one of the few building blocks on the Knicks roster. A large part of this year is about letting the 19-year-old make mistakes and learn from them.
Mudiay's future is more difficult to read since the arrival of a marquee free agent such as Kyrie Irving would change his outlook drastically. At the very least, the 22-year-old could be positioning himself as a backup option or trade chip for New York in 2019 and beyond.
Going back to the bigger picture, Monday's game is part of the Knicks' growth process. A rebuild doesn't happen in a steadily upward arc. There are going to be bumps in the road and stretches that are hard to watch.
Just keep looking toward the brighter days that are ahead for New York.
Kelly Oubre Jr. Will Ease Offensive Burden on Deandre Ayton
Getting Ayton consistent looks inside isn't easy when the Suns lack a traditional NBA-caliber point guard. Prior to Monday, Ayton was averaging 11.7 shots. For the sake of comparison, Jahlil Okafor averaged 14.7 shots in his rookie season.
Making Booker the primary playmaker is a good temporary solution, and the Suns are making a concerted effort to work the ball more to Ayton under the basket.
Phoenix's dearth of scoring options doesn't make life any easier for Ayton either. Booker, Ayton and T.J. Warren are the only Suns players averaging double figures in points. At least in that regard, Kelly Oubre Jr. should help.
Oubre is averaging a career-high 12.9 points and shooting 43.3 percent from the field. His 31.1 percent clip from beyond the arc leaves something to be desired, but opposing defenses at least have to respect the threat he poses from the perimeter.
That, in turn, should free up space in the paint for Ayton.
The Suns hit the second leg of their five-game road trip Wednesday against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. According to The Athletic's Gina Mizell, Phoenix's two newest additions, Oubre and Rivers, will join the team in time for that game. The Knicks head to the City of Brotherly Love on Wednesday for a game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center.