The New Year’s resolutions for 2023 should be pretty clear for the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns: Find the consistency that eluded them in the final month of 2022.
The Knicks and Suns will both make their 2023 debuts Monday afternoon, when New York is slated to host Phoenix in the final regular-season game between the teams.
The Knicks have been off since concluding a trek through Texas Saturday night with a 108-88 win over the Houston Rockets. The Suns are continuing a six-game road trip after falling to the Toronto Raptors 113-104 on Friday night.
The win over the Rockets snapped a five-game losing streak for the Knicks and provided a positive end to a chaotic December. New York opened the month Dec. 3 by squandering a 15-point first-half lead in a 121-100 loss to the Dallas Mavericks but then won eight straight, allowing more than 106 points just once in that stretch.
The Knicks followed that up with a five-game losing streak in which they were outscored by a combined 27 points and allowed at least 113 points in each contest. The skid included a historic collapse against the Mavericks, who overcame a nine-point deficit in the final 30 seconds of regulation to earn a 126-121 overtime win. Luka Doncic became the first player ever to record a 60-20-10 triple double when he finished with 60 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists.
After an equally discouraging 122-115 defeat Thursday to the San Antonio Spurs — who have the second-worst record in the Western Conference — the Knicks fell behind the Rockets, owners of the worst record in the West, by nine points in the first half. But New York outscored them 55-39 in the second half, despite the absence of starting guards Jalen Brunson (hip) and RJ Barrett (finger).
“It’s the nature of the league — you win eight in a row, then you have some tough losses, last-possession type losses, that’s all part of it,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said after New York improved to 19-18 and tied the Miami Heat for seventh place in the East. “We took a haymaker. It stings. Then you’ve got to bounce back.”
The Suns took plenty of stinging punches in December, when they went 5-11 to fall into seventh place in the Western Conference. Phoenix endured losing streaks of five games and three games before ending the month with defeats to the Washington Wizards and the Raptors, two teams outside the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.
But among the five teams the Suns beat in December were the New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers, who entered Sunday in second, third and sixth place in the West.
Finding consistency will require the Suns to play less sloppily on both ends of the court. Phoenix gave up at least 120 points eight times in December and ended the month by committing a season-high 27 turnovers against the Raptors.
“I don’t know how many games I’ve ever played in with 27 turnovers,” Suns point guard Chris Paul told reporters. Paul committed six of them.
“That’s a lot. It started with me.”
–Field Level Media