PHOENIX — The stitches are beginning to pile up for guard Goran Dragic. But so are the wins for the Phoenix Suns.
Dragic had 18 of his 32 points in the first quarter and the Phoenix Suns combined 14 3-pointers and with fast-break points to win their sixth straight game, a 112-88 rout of the New York Knicks on Friday.
Dragic was 7-for-8 from the field in the first quarter and finished 11-for-17 despite suffering a five-stitch cut over his left eye courtesy of an elbow from New York center Tyson Chandler. Dragic now has nine 30-point games this season and has scored 18 or more in 12 of the past 13 games.
“I don’t know what’s going on. It’s always the left eye,” Dragic said of his latest set of stitches. “That’s the fifth time now, the second time this season. So now every time I’m taking a photo for a passport, I’m taking it from (the right) side.”
The Knicks left Dragic wide open, almost daring him to shoot. He was happy to oblige.
“They went under the screen every time. It’s not an easy shot but it’s not contested,” Dragic said. “Every time they do that, I’m going to have a good game. They didn’t play good defense and we could get everything we want. You just swing the ball two, three times and find an open guy.”
Guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Markieff Morris added 16 points each for the Suns, who used their best winning streak of the year to move a season-high 15 games over .500 (44-29) and past the Memphis Grizzlies into seventh-place by a half-game in the tightly-packed Western Conference playoff race.
Phoenix now leads the idle, ninth-place Dallas Mavericks by one full game. But with nine games left, seeding isn’t the team’s biggest motivation.
“To go from one of the worst teams in the league last year to having a chance to make the playoffs — that’s the hunger right there,” Phoenix forward P.J. Tucker said. “We’re just playing. We’re not looking at who is winning and losing. If we take care of business, we’ll be in the playoffs.”
Forward Carmelo Anthony had 21 points and forward Amar’e Stoudemire had 19 for the Knicks, who lost for the third time in the past four games and dropped two full games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
J.R. Smith had 10 of New York’s first 19 points, but had only five the rest of the way.
“We can’t make any excuses,” said Stoudemire, who played in Phoenix for only the second time since leaving as a free agent in the summer of 2010. “We knew what they were going to do. We talked about the pace, we talked about match-ups, we talked about 3-pointers … it shouldn’t have caught us by surprise.
Anthony lost 13 straight games at US Airways Center, dating back to his rookie season with the Denver Nuggets in 2004.
“Overall as a unit, we didn’t fight,” Anthony said. “We didn’t have it, and they had it in all aspects of the game. This game and the Lakers game (a 127-96 loss Tuesday) we were down 20-something points before you even know it.”
Dragic keyed a 13-2 Phoenix run in the first quarter that turned a 22-19 deficit into a 32-24 lead. The Phoenix bench outscored the Knicks 9-0 in the period, all on 3-pointers from guard Gerald Green (two) and Markieff Morris (one) on the way to a 39-point night.
The Knicks shaved a 34-26 first-quarter deficit to 38-34 on Ian Shumpert’s 17-footer with 8:55 left. But the Suns answered with a 17-5 run, with Markieff (nine) and forward Marcus Morris (four) scoring 13 of the points. Marcus Morris’s tip-in made it 53-37 Phoenix with 4:01 left.
The Suns ended the half with nine straight points with a slam dunk by center Miles Plumlee off a Marcus Morris feed giving Phoenix a 62-40 bulge at intermission.
The Suns led by as many as 32 points in the third quarter, their largest lead in any game this season. The Knicks cut the Phoenix lead down to 17 at 92-75 on two free throws by Stoudemire with 8:27 left. But the Suns answered with eight straight points, with Dragic following a Bledsoe 3-pointer with a 3-point play to ice the game.
NOTES: Suns G Eric Bledsoe came into Friday with four straight games scoring 20-plus points (averaging 21.8 points over the run). He finished with 16 points … The Suns are 20-10 against the Eastern Conference and if the season had ended Friday, they would have been the No. 3 seed in the East instead of fighting for their postseason lives in the West. … Knicks coach Mike Woodson on trying to make a playoff run as a New York team: “Every game is tough us, it doesn’t matter who we play. It just seems like everyone gets up for our game.” … The Suns are a perfect 19-0 when shooting 50 percent or better this season, something they did three times during the five-game winning streak they took into Friday. Chicago and Minnesota are the only other teams perfect when shooting 50 percent or better. … Tim Boven of Peoria, Ariz., hit a half-court shot during a timeout to win $77,777 in a contest sponsored by a local casino.
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