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Suns shake off slow start, dispatch Knicks

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Updated 10 months ago on
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PHOENIX — After one quarter in which it was hard to tell which team has the worst record in the NBA, the Phoenix Suns stopped turning the ball over and started putting the New York Knicks away.

Brandan Wright stepped up for injured center Alex Len and produced 18 points and 11 rebounds, and the Suns shook off a poor start to beat the Knicks 102-89 Sunday.

“We’ve had some major changes (with trades and now injuries) and were a little sluggish in the first quarter, but after that, everyone played really well,” said Wright, whose eighth career double-double was his first as a Sun. “We did a good job of shaking off the bad start.

“We had 10 turnovers in the first half, and they were the kind we couldn’t recover from. They were getting run-outs and layups, and we had to clean that up. We had only three turnovers in the second half, and that was a big difference.”

Suns guard Eric Bledsoe added 21 points and 11 assists, and he just missed his third triple-double of the season, finishing with eight rebounds. Forward Markieff Morris scored 20 points for the Suns, who stayed three games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot. The Thunder beat the Chicago Bulls Sunday.

The Suns (35-33) moved within two games of the ninth-place New Orleans Pelicans, who lost to the Denver Nuggets. The Suns and Pelicans meet Thursday in Phoenix.

“We were low on energy, and that’s what happens when you underestimate your opponent, which I feel like we did for the first quarter or so,” said Suns guard Archie Goodwin, who had seven points and set career highs with five assists and three steals. “Toward the end of the second quarter, we started playing really hard and we started respecting them, and I think that’s why we ultimately won.”

Center Andrea Bargnani and guard Alexey Shved had 18 points each for the Knicks, who are 5-30 on the road this season. New York (13-53) completed a 1-4 Western road trip.

Forward Lance Thomas added 14 points for New York, who lost two players during the game: guard Tim Hardaway Jr. with a sprained right wrist and forward Cleanthony Early with a sprained left ankle.

“We had (guard Langston Galloway and forward Lou Amundson) in foul trouble and we lost Tim in two minutes and Cle to a rolled ankle. We just couldn’t keep the fight going,” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said. “The Suns continued to make plays that a team in a position to make the playoffs or at least still competing for it will make. We just couldn’t sustain the fight.”

Playing without starters Len and Brandon Knight (ankle sprains), the Suns committed seven turnovers in the first quarter and watched the Knicks build an 11-point lead. Shved had seven points and capped an 11-2 New York run with a 3-pointer to make it 29-18.

“They were making everything they shot up,” Bledsoe said. “We knew to stay the course and keep our composure and it was going to change a little bit for us.”

New York still led 46-38 with 3:51 left in the half before the Suns came alive and closed with a 9-2 run, climbing within 48-47 on a driving dunk by Bledsoe with 8.9 second left.

Phoenix continued their surge and began to pull away in the third quarter, opening with a 12-3 run and getting nine points from forward Marcus Morris, who finished with 14. Center Earl Barron hit two jumpers in the final 2:02, and the Suns took a 75-66 lead to the fourth.

New York got as close as four points on two Bargnani free throws with 9:39 left, but the Suns answered with a 17-5 run to put the game away. Phoenix posted its biggest lead of the game at 96-80 on a Marcus Morris layup with 4:45 left.

“Overall, I didn’t think we played a bad game,” Bargnani said. “We missed shots inside and outside. I was wide open for two consecutive (3-pointers) and I missed them, and we missed some layups, and that’s what it really comes down to. If we hit those shot, I don’t know if we win or not, but we definitely put more pressure on them in the last five minutes.”

NOTES: Suns C Alex Len missed the game after spraining his right ankle for the third time this season. … The Knicks and Suns met for the 120th time, and the series is tied 60-60. The Suns led the series only once — 1-0, after taking the first meeting 109-92 on Oct. 24, 1968, in Phoenix. It was the fourth game in Suns history. … Knicks coach Derek Fisher played 33 games in US Airways Center, the most of any opposing player. For active players: Tim Duncan (31), Kobe Bryant (29), Dirk Nowitzki (29) and Kevin Garnett (27) are close behind. … The Suns came into the game averaging 18.7 fastbreak points per game, second in the NBA to Golden State (20.8). The Knicks are last in the league, averaging 8.5 fastbreak points. Phoenix finished with a 21-8 edge in that category Sunday.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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