Suns use big 3rd quarter to beat Knicks for 3rd in a row
By BRIAN MAHONEY
NEW YORK (AP) A 4-24 record didn't discourage the Phoenix Suns, so a seven-point halftime deficit certainly wouldn't.
The young Suns wiped away the second one, and insist they'll keep chipping away at the first.
"We're building," guard Devin Booker said. "We're getting better every game."
Booker tied his season high with 38 points, T.J. Warren scored 17 of his 26 during Phoenix's 41-point third quarter and the Suns beat the New York Knicks 128-110 on Monday night for their third straight victory.
Phoenix outscored New York 41-17 in the third and went on to win three consecutive games for the first time since March 2-5, 2017. The Suns won only four times in their first 28 games, but are 3 for 3 since.
Deandre Ayton finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds for the Suns in an impressive start to a five-game road trip, their longest of the season. Jamal Crawford had a career-high 14 assists as last-place Phoenix improved to 2-13 away from home, toughening up in the second half after giving up 12 offensive rebounds in the first.
"Whatever it was, it was a completely different team in the second half," Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said. "We saw two different teams, understanding that if we rebound the ball we're going to win the game."
Booker just returned Saturday from a six-game absence with a left hamstring strain and scored 28 points against Minnesota. He was even better with a game under his belt, hurting the Knicks not only with his perimeter shooting but also by going 14 of 15 at the free throw line and grabbing seven rebounds.
Emmanuel Mudiay had 32 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Knicks, who lost for the seventh time in eight games. Rookie forward Kevin Knox scored 17.
"We were up in the first half and at halftime I think we got a little relaxed and thought the game was over and they were going to roll over for us," said Knox, who had just four points in the second half. "But, that's not what happened."
New York played without leading scorer Tim Hardaway Jr. because of a sore right heel.
Mudiay came in averaging 18.5 points in his last eight games and was just about there by halftime, with 18 points. Knox had 13 and the Knicks were ahead 66-59.
Things changed quickly in the third quarter, when the Suns went 16 of 22 from the field - with one of the misses being a halfcourt heave as the buzzer sounded.
The game was tied at 79 after Mudiay's layup but Warren nailed a long 3-pointer to ignite a 21-4 finish to the period. Warren had another 3 later in the run, and Crawford hit a couple of jumpers and had four assists, including an alley-oop pass to Richaun Holmes.
"The water was coming through the dam through so many holes," Knicks coach David Fizdale said. "We didn't show a lot of toughness during that run."
With their 100-83 lead, the Suns kept up the pressure early in the fourth and quickly put the game out of reach.
Suns: Josh Jackson scored 14 points and Holmes had 13. ... Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers were not with the team after their acquisition from Washington became official earlier Monday. The Wizards agreed to send them to Phoenix on Saturday for Trevor Ariza.
Knicks: Veteran guard Courtney Lee started for Hardaway in just his seventh game of the season. Lee was out when the season began because of a neck injury. ... The Knicks played without rookies Allonzo Trier (strained left hamstring) and Mitchell Robinson (sprained left ankle). Trier's absence prevented him from facing Ayton, his former Arizona teammate.
Ayton said the Suns gave the game ball to the 38-year-old Crawford, whose previous best was 12 assists. Crawford is far better known as a scorer and volume shooter. But he noted he was a point guard in high school, college and the early part of his NBA career before he became a three-time winner of the Sixth Man Award.
"I think especially for me, I'm known as such a scorer, and I can score - like, I really can score - but sometimes the defense thinks that, too, and they fall asleep and I see guys," Crawford said.
Suns: Visit Boston on Wednesday.
Knicks: Visit Philadelphia on Wednesday.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Updated December 17, 2018