NBA Basketball

Surging Suns set for cellar-dweller showdown vs. Knicks

The Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks will square off Wednesday night in Arizona in a rare late-season battle of the two teams vying for the worst record in the NBA.

But the Suns will be coming off a rarer and more noteworthy accomplishment. Both teams were off Tuesday after playing Monday, when the visiting Knicks fell to the Sacramento Kings 115-108, and the host Suns stunned the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks, 114-105.

Monday's results were notable for two reasons. The Knicks (13-51) moved past the Suns (14-51) in the "race" for the NBA's worst record, though they are both in position to have the same odds of winning the draft lottery on May 14. The teams with the three worst records will all have a 14 percent chance of coming out of the lottery with the top pick, and the opportunity to select Duke star Zion Williamson.

In addition, the victory by the Suns completed a surprising season sweep of the Bucks. Phoenix earned a 116-114 win in Milwaukee on Nov. 23, which immediately preceded a 10-game losing streak.

Since the 2009-10 season, only one team with the worst record in the NBA managed to sweep the season series from a team that finished with a winning record. The 2012-13 Orlando Magic swept a two-game series from the Golden State Warriors, who finished 47-35.

Of the other three teams -- the Knicks, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls -- with the best odds of finishing with the worst record in the league, only the Knicks have a chance at completing a sweep of a team with a winning record. New York beat the San Antonio Spurs, 130-118, on Feb. 24 and will visit the Spurs on March 15.

At 36-29, the Spurs fighting for a playoff spot, not the best record in the NBA. Which means if the Suns end up with the league's worst record, they'll have the most noteworthy sweep of the decade.

Of course, after beating the Bucks, the Suns aren't focused on "beating out" the Knicks or anyone else for the worst record. The win was the second straight for Phoenix, which beat the Los Angeles Lakers 118-109 on Saturday, and third in four games.

"It just says a lot about this team," guard Devin Booker told reporters after the Suns built their second winning streak of the season. Phoenix won four straight from Dec. 13-19, a stretch in which they beat the Knicks 128-110 in New York.

"We're not backing down to anybody. After the All-Star Break, a lot of teams could shut it down, but we're not. It feels like a new season for us. (Forward) Kelly (Oubre Jr.) and I were just talking. We wished the season just started right now. We're ready for every game. We're coming at teams, and we're ready for it."

The Knicks are approaching the remainder of a lost season with similar sentiments. New York endured a single-season franchise-record 18-game losing streak from Jan. 7 through Feb. 13 but is 3-4 dating back to a 106-91 win over the Hawks on Feb. 14.

"We don't worry about the record," Knicks forward Kevin Knox told reporters Monday night. "We go out there and play for one another, play together, compete and play hard."

--Field Level Media

Updated March 5, 2019

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