The Phoenix Suns make a defensive return in Sunday’s win over the New York Knicks

The Phoenix Suns bounced back against the New York Knicks on Sunday, winning in a dominant manner at home, 116-95.

Yes, it was a team they should have beaten. yes it was at home In fact, it was against a team they’ve beaten eight times in a row since the 2018/19 season.

But the Suns were focused on what they needed most after their last five games: defensively.

Phoenix wasn’t the team it was that end since its starting point guard Chris Paul retired with heel pain.

In the Suns’ five games before facing New York, they allowed teams to average 119.4 points. They lost three of those games and only one opponent (the Utah Jazz) had a .500+ record.

Their opponents also shot 48.0 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from 3-point range in those games. In the time since Paul went down before Sunday’s game, the Suns had the 29th defense in the NBA, giving up 120 points per 100 possessions. They also had the second worst Defense Efficiency (120.4) in this range.

It’s been well below the effort the Suns have shown since their coach Monty Williams started with the team in the 2019-20 season and especially in the last two seasons as they reached the NBA Finals and then a best 64 wins of the franchise scored in one season.

Williams spoke about the problems on Saturday.

“They (the defense) have gone down the last six games,” Williams said. “We didn’t consistently play the defense we’re used to.”

Strong starter Torrey Craig adds: “When you know what you have to do and still have the glitches that you have, it’s at least a little frustrating. It’s kind of good to have games like this, you learn from it, examine it and move on to the next one.”

The Suns started 7-2 and ranked second in the NBA in opposing points per game (103.9) and fifth in opposing field goal percentages (50.9), a good one Begin. Since then, Phoenix has gone 3-4 and even had problems with the clutch timesomething it was historically great with in 2021-22.

Still, the Suns are No. 5 in the NBA in opponent points per game (107.9). They’re also ninth in opposing shot percentage (45.7 percent), so their five-game troubles could be an outlier, especially if Paul and typical starting forward Cameron Johnson (meniscus tear) are out.

Their performance against New York on Sunday was more of an indication of who they were. The Knicks shot 34 of 85 (40 percent) from field and 7 of 25 (28.0 percent) from 3-point range. Granted, New York went to the free-throw line 25 times, but the Suns were particularly effective against power forward Julius Randle, who had just nine points on 4-of-11 shooting.

The Suns held the Knicks to 22 points in the first and third quarters and to 20 points in the fourth quarter.

“I’m well aware that our group is always intentionally paying attention to the things that we’re bringing to their attention, and when we spoke to a guy about it yesterday, they all said, ‘These numbers don’t look like Sun’s defense numbers.’ said Williams. “(Sun’s associate coach) Kevin (Young) made a big point that we should never come last in a category when it comes to NBA defense and offense. Our guys just took on the challenge, probably wanted to shut me up and we can be that night after night. You might not be able to hold a team to 22 points, but you can play the way we played early in the game and we feel like no matter who you have in your roster, you can play that type of defense with Energy , effort and game plan discipline.”

Phoenix’s defense should improve if Paul returns. A seven-time all-defensive first-teamer, he’s still a key presence at both ends of the parquet.

They just have to get back to what they are. Their game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday will be another opportunity to do so.

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