NEW YORK – The Phoenix Suns haven’t lost a game in a month. And, after beating the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Friday night, they are two wins away from matching the franchise’s all-time 17-game winning streak.
To do so, however, the Suns will only have to beat the teams that are at the top of both conferences, first facing the leading Nets in the East on Saturday night in Brooklyn before returning home to play the Golden State Warriors leaders in the West. It will be the first of three games in less than a month against the Warriors, culminating in a showdown on Christmas Day between the two best teams in the league thus far.
But while the rest of the NBA may have back-to-back games between two of the league’s top three teams circled right now, one team doesn’t: the Suns themselves.
“This is not a playoff game tomorrow,” Chris Paul said with a smile after Phoenix’s 118-97 win over the Knicks. “It’s good for us to go out there and compete, and we’ll probably see different coverage and all that, but we’re just trying to build, build.
“It’s not about winning a game in November.”
The Suns are focused on building to win games in May and June. But all of the winning games in November? That’s going well, as Phoenix posted its 15th straight victory Friday night in a complete win over the Knicks.
The game was competitive during the first quarter. But, as the game progressed, the Knicks just faded away, unable to make anything come out offensively while also delivering what the Suns wanted on the other end of the court. Phoenix finished the game shooting 55 percent from the field and 13 of 28 from 3-point range.
But it was Devin Booker, who finished with 32 points in 35 minutes, who stole the show for the Suns. He scored 21 points in the first half and got where he wanted to go against whoever Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau threw at him.
“A lot of guys say they want to play on this stage, but he really wants it,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “But I don’t think there are many stages that Book doesn’t want to play through.”
Booker said the aggression on his part came from knowing the Suns needed to get off to a good start after a pair of close wins over San Antonio and Cleveland earlier this week. He acknowledged that Phoenix’s winning streak has made them a team that everyone is excited to play, and that the Suns have to match that intensity every night.
“We just wanted to get it going,” said Booker, who was 14 of 27 from the field and 4 of 9 from 3-point range. “It’s no secret that we’re on a streak and we’re going to get the best shot from every team. The whole NBA knows it, so we try to set the tone from the start. Get out there, play team basketball … we did it.” our work tonight. “
That’s been the case for quite some time for these Suns, who are now within a win pair of matching the franchise’s best 17-game win streak, which returned in the 2006-07 season.
The past calendar year has seen Phoenix return to heights it hadn’t reached since that era, when Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and Mike D’Antoni made the Suns perennial contenders in the Western Conference.
Yet these Suns managed to do what that group never could last season by reaching the NBA Finals, where they lost in six hard-fought games to the Milwaukee Bucks. And after it looked like Phoenix might fall into some kind of hangover from last season with losses in three of its first four games, all the Suns have accomplished is winning every game since, to the point where it enters the game. Saturday’s game in Brooklyn having a full calendar month gone between losses.
It’s a sea change that began with Phoenix’s acquisition of Paul through trade a year ago this month. And, while examining his team’s latest win, he said it’s Phoenix’s defense, which is the third-best unit in the NBA this season, and it’s second after Golden State since the start of the winning streak, that’s the base of everything. the Suns hope to do it.
“We talk about it all the time. [La] the only thing that travels is defense, “Paul said.” I think that’s where we try to be consistent. “
The Suns now hope to bring that consistency to Saturday’s game in Brooklyn. What Phoenix says he won’t do, however, is think of anything beyond that.
“We do one at a time,” Booker said. “We know that tomorrow we have a tough opponent who has been waiting for us, rested. So we have to go in with the same mentality, play the kind of basketball we do, defend at a high level and get in good shape to do it.”