NEW YORK — The Phoenix Suns haven’t lost a game in a month. And, after beating the New York Knicks here at Madison Square Garden Friday night, they are two wins away from equaling the franchise’s all-time consecutive win streak of 17 games.
To do so, however, the Suns will only have to beat the teams sitting atop both conferences — first facing the East-leading Nets Saturday night in Brooklyn before heading home to play the West-leading Golden State Warriors. It’ll be the first of three games in less than a month against the Warriors, culminating with a Christmas Day showdown between the league’s top two teams thus far.
But while the rest of the NBA may have the consecutive games between two of the league’s three-best teams circled at the moment, one team does not: the Suns themselves.
“This ain’t a playoff game tomorrow,” Chris Paul said with a smile after Phoenix’s 118-97 victory over the Knicks. “It’s good for us to go out there and compete, and we’re probably gonna see different coverages 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 toward winning games in May and June. But the whole winning games in November thing? That’s going just fine as Phoenix ripped off its 15th straight victory Friday night in a comprehensive win over the Knicks.
The game was competitive through the first quarter. But, as the game progressed, the Knicks simply melted away, unable to get anything going offensively while simultaneously giving up whatever the Suns wanted at the other end of the court. Phoenix finished the game shooting 55 percent from the field and 13-for-28 from 3-point range.
But it was Devin Booker, who finished with 32 points in 35 minutes, that stole the show for the Suns. He poured in 21 points in the first half and got wherever he wanted against whomever Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau threw at him.
“A lot of guys say they want to play on this stage, but he really does,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “But I don’t think there’s many stages Book doesn’t want to play on.”
Booker said the aggression on his part stemmed from knowing that 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 Phoenix’s win streak has made them a team everyone is excited to play, and that the Suns have to match that intensity on a nightly basis.
“We just wanted to get it going,” said Booker, who shot 14-for-27 from the field and 4-for-9 from 3-point range. “It’s no secret we have a streak going, and we’re going to get every team’s best shot. The whole NBA knows about that, so we just tried to set the tone early. Come out, play team basketball … we did our job tonight.”
That’s been the case for quite some time for these Suns, who are now a pair of wins away from equaling that franchise-best 17-game win streak, which came back in the 2006-07 season.
The past calendar year has seen Phoenix return to the heights they haven’t reached since that era, when Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and Mike D’Antoni turned the Suns into perennial contenders in the Western Conference.
These Suns, though, managed to do what that group never quite could last season in 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 sort of hangover from last season with losses in three of its first four games, all the Suns have managed to do is win every game since, to the point where it enters Saturday’s game in Brooklyn having gone a full calendar month between losses.
It’s a turnaround that began with Phoenix’s acquisition of Paul via trade a year ago this month. And, as he surveyed his team’s latest win, he said it is Phoenix’s defense — which is the NBA’s third-best unit this season, and is second to Golden State since the start of the winning streak — that is the foundation for everything the Suns are hoping to accomplish.
“We talk about it all the time. [The] one thing that travels is defense,” Paul said. “I think that’s where we try to be consistent.”
The Suns will now hope to carry that consistency over to Saturday’s game in Brooklyn. What Phoenix says it won’t do, however, is think about anything beyond that.
“We do one at a time,” Booker said. “We know we have a tough opponent tomorrow that’s been waiting on us, well-rested. So we just have to come in with the same mentality, play the type of basketball that we do, defend at a high level and put ourselves in good shape to get it done.”
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