Based on their breakout run to the NBA Finals last season, the Suns arrive at Madison Square Garden on Friday night with a winning streak of 14 games and with the league’s second-best record of 15-3.
Veteran points guard Chris Paul leads in his 17th season NBA in assists with 10.4 per game, including a dozen shillings, along with 17 points, in Phoenix’s victory Wednesday in Cleveland.
“It’s just incredible,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said this week when asked about 36-year-old Paul. “I think he’s always been a great player. His career speaks for itself. He went through a stretch where he had injuries, but the way he takes care of his body and he’s just kind of navigated it and he “I think you can see what his management has done for that team. He has brought out the best in them.”
Twice All-Star Devin Booker, who scored 35 points on 14 of 21 shots for the Suns in that 120-115 victory over the Cavaliers, leads Phoenix by 23.1 points per game. match. Deandre Ayton, the overall No. 1 pick in 2018, has an average of a double-double with 16.0 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.
“When you have veterans who have been through the wars, when you can pair it with a young star like a Booker, I think it’s very beneficial,” Thibodeau said. “You want your vets to help show the way with the young guys.
“And it has to be someone who can still play and has respect for everyone. I think [Paul] is the perfect guy for it. You look at how dynamic their backyard is with the two. That’s why they have the record they have. “
Mitchell Robinson (concussion), Derrick Rose (ankle) and Taj Gibson (groin) have all been listed as questionable for the Knicks (10-8), after they missed Tuesday’s home win over the Lakers, who played without LeBron James. Thibodeau’s team will also play Saturday night in Atlanta as part of a stretch of top opponents that will include the Nets, Bulls and Nuggets next week.
“You want to build a consistency in how you prepare for each game, and know your opponent well, know what it takes to win,” Thibodeau said. “We have to go out and execute, you have to play for 48 minutes. … We have to make sure we go out there prepared and you have to do it as a team. ”
Asked in which areas he thinks the Knicks should “tighten up” their game before meeting the Suns, Thibodeau said: “Each area to be honest with you. So it starts in the transition and then the pick-and-roll game . “
Phoenix holds the league’s best away record with 7-1, while the Knicks have only won half of their 10 games in the Garden, including two losses to the team with the worst overall record in the Eastern Conference, Magic (4) -15).
“You can not overlook any of their players,” Thibodeau said of the Suns, who are coached by former Knick Monty Williams. “[Mikal] Bridges is a really good player, Ayton has played really well, the bench has played well. [Jae] Crowder is a guy you can not overlook. That team is really well put together. Their bench has been amazing. They get a lot out of it [JaVale] McGee? And they are very well-balanced. ”