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Defense dooms Knicks again

The Knicks lose for the second straight game at Madison Square Garden.

Suns 129, Knicks 121

Once again, defense was optional for the Knicks. Only this time, they were outrun on offense in their own building.

The ghosts of players past haunted the Knicks yesterday afternoon in a 129-121 loss to the Suns. Vince Carter nearly doubled his season average, knocking down a variety of open looks to pour in a game-high 29, while Grant Hill chipped in with 25.

The Knicks, who now embark on uphill West-coast swing [Houston, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City], were led by Amare Stoudemire’s season-high 41 points. It was Stoudemire’s 14th game with 30 or more points. Wilson Chandler was also a bright spot in an otherwise dim afternoon as he tallied 23 points and five rebounds.

What went wrong ...

1
Open looks all day
— Vince Carter didn’t look like the declining 12-year veteran who has bounced around the league the last few years. No, Vinsanity lit up the Garden like old times yesterday, scoring a team-high 29 points in the Suns’ 129-121 win over the Knicks. Old-timer Grant Hill also took advantage of the lazy Knicks defense, which ranks last in the Eastern Conference, pouring in 25 points. Carter and former Knick Channing Frye each knocked down back-breaking 3s late in the game to hand the Knicks their third loss in a row and avenge a blowout defeat in Phoenix 11 days ago. The Frye bucket with 2:28 left hurt the most, giving the Suns an insurmountable 119-110 lead.

“It needs to be a wake-up call,”?said Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni. “We have to understand who we are. We are not Boston or Miami.”

2 Nash in a flash — Steve Nash was his usually stealth self, quarterbacking a nearly flawless game. The former star of D’Antoni’s offense had 15 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists and knocked down clutch free throws to keep the Knicks at bay. D’Antoni’s current point guard, Raymond Felton, made Nash’s numbers look even better. Felton had just seven points and five turnovers.

3 Season best — Amare Stoudemire did all he could to keep it close, netting a season-high 41 points. Stoudemire, who entered the game second in the league in scoring, helped the Knicks overcome an early 12-point deficit to take a three-point lead at the half. After scoring 33 through three quarters, though, the Suns kept him scoreless for the first eight minutes of the fourth. It was just enough defense.

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