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Knicks sluggish again in loss to Suns

The Knicks’ offensive woes continued on Wednesday night as they dropped their fourth-straight game, 91-88, to the Suns.

The Knicks’ offensive woes continued on Wednesday night as they dropped their fourth-straight game, 91-88, to the Suns.

Despite 23 points from Amar’e Stoudemire, the Knicks (6-8) still couldn’t put any semblance of offensive cohesion together. Neither could the Suns for that matter, as both offenses struggled. The irony in the ugly loss was that both teams operate some form of Mike D’Antoni’s uptempo offense, yet neither squad could get much going.

Other than a manic final minute of regulation, the game was a sloppy affair with no real flow. Carmelo Anthony was the epitome of horrendous shooting as he tallied only 12 points on 5-of-22 shooting. Although Anthony won’t use it as a crutch, surely his shooting wrist had an affect in his tepid touch. Anthony didn’t make himself immediately available afterwards due to a family issue, but D’Antoni said he thinks the wrist is becoming a larger problem.

“I think it’s bothering him, but I don’t know how much. You’d have to ask him [because] I don’t want to put words into his mouth,” said D’Antoni. “He had the brace on and off and was having a hard time gripping the ball.

The Suns (5-9) had their own problems heading into this game, but thanks to their ageless leader they were able to end their own five-game skid. Steve Nash led the team with game highs of 26 points and 11 assists to go along with five rebounds. Nash had his imprint on the entire game as he accounted for 50 points scored, while Knick point guards struggled controlling the tempo and getting others involved while still trying to get theirs.

Iman Shumpert did have moments of greatness, particularly that final minute, but still looked like a rookie at times, as he had a minus assist-to-turnover ratio (two-to-three). Shumpert did register 20 points, but it was the inability to get a good look at the buzzer that ultimately doomed the Knicks.

The final minute was chaotic as it began with Shumpert knocking down a huge side 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 82-80 with 56 seconds remaining. Shannon Brown came through with a clutch, albeit fluky, shot from the corner to extend the lead. Brown’s shot, a corner 3-pointer with 35 seconds left, hit side iron, caromed high into the air grazing the top of the backboard and rimmed in to give Phoenix an 85-80 lead. Shumpert then hit another 3-pointer from straightaway with 25 seconds left for the 85-83 deficit.

Nash took over the waning seconds after he was fouled on the next possession and coolly knocked down two free throws for an 87-83 lead. Surprisingly, the freebies were Phoenix’s first free throw attempts in the second half. Anthony had an offensive putback with 10.7 seconds remaining, only to see Nash again nail two more freebies to extend the lead. Anthony then responded with a 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds remaining to cut it to 89-88. Nash then sealed it when he swished in two more freebies to make it 91-88. The Knicks’ fortunes expired when Shumpert missed a wild attempt at a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.

The Knicks have now lost to teams that may be in the draft lottery (Charlotte twice, Toronto and Phoenix) and are officially in a slump. D’Antoni said it’s baffling because they have regularly outplayed their opponents in all but the one category he thought would be a gimme.

“There’s not a lot of flow and a lot happening [offensively],” said D’Antoni. “We’re playing good enough defense to win games. As soon as we solve that [offensive] problem we’ll be a better team, that’s for sure. We’re winning every statistical category except we can’t put the ball into the basket.”

Shumpert did his best to pick up the scoring slack and said while he knows who the go-to guys are it’s still a team game and the supporting cast still needs to pull their weight.

“We’re making it tough on our two scorers. Too much [offensive] traffic and we’re depending on them to make tough shots with the clock winding down,” said Shumpert. “We can’t expect them to make shots with a hand in their faces every single time.”

Tyson Chandler agreed but added that their rut can end if they just revert back to uptempo play from the onset.

“We have to start clicking earlier than the fourth quarter,” Chandler said. “Get easy baskets and quicken the tempo. We need to get into transition earlier and not let them load up on our [star] guys.”

The Knicks shot a paltry 37 percent from the field, including 26 percent from 3-point range. Stoudemire was far more aggressive than his 10-point effort against Orlando on Monday, but he still struggled at times, finishing the game 7-of-22 shooting.

D’Antoni hopes they figure out how to put the ball in the basket soon because it’s the one area in which he’s known as a mastermind.

“As the game gets tight we revert back to holding the ball and it’s killing us right now. We just have to figure out the one part and that’s the part that should be the easiest for us,” D’Antoni said. “You would never think that would be a problem for us. What’s frustrating is scoring 88 points and that’s almost seen as a good night for us. This is hard to imagine … but they can’t play any harder. They just have to play better.”

Knicks notes

»Landry Fields finally busted out of his slump with his best performance yet. The second-year guard netted a line that was customary in his rookie campaign -- 17 points, six rebounds and four assists.

» Tyson Chandler was his usual solid self as he had nine points and a game-high 17 rebounds.

»The game was back-and-forth all night as the largest lead was just six points.

»The Knicks dominated the glass with a 54-38 advantage.

»The Suns got a nice contribution from Nash’s supporting cast as big man Marcin Gortat had a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds, while Shannon Brown had 14 points off the bench. Grant Hill chipped in with 14 points, five rebounds and three assists.

»Up next for the Knicks is a Friday night home matchup with the Bucks beforeAnthony’s Denver reunion at home with the Nuggets Saturday night.

Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.

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