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BBNBA: Knicks get back in win column & Suns clinch playoff spot

Raj Mehta | USA TODAY Sports

Raj Mehta | USA TODAY Sports

It was an action-packed night of BBNBA hoops last night. Let’s talk about it.

RECAP

The Phoenix Suns are officially in the playoffs

For the first time in over a decade, the Suns will be playing in the NBA Playoffs. Last night, Phoenix picked up a massive win at home against the Los Angeles Clippers to finally clinch a playoff spot.

The win represents the culmination of a long journey from cellar dweller to, as of now, the second-best team in the National Basketball Association. Here’s what Chris Paul had to say about his teammate and Suns leading scorer Devin Booker:

Booker finished with 21 points and 6 boards in the win over the blue-and-red LA team in an important game for seeding purposes. The Clippers have quietly been the hottest team in the league since the All-Star break and were closing in on Phoenix to take the two-spot in the West. However, with the head-to-head win yesterday, Phoenix has taken back a two-game advantage with 10 games left to play.

They’re only a game behind first-place Utah and could very well take the West’s one-seed and permanent home-court advantage throughout the playoffs if they are able to pass the Jazz.

Anyways, congrats to Booker on an achievement he’s been waiting several years for!

Knicks get back on track vs. Chicago

The Kentucky Knicks continue to be a ton of fun. Last night, the trio of Julius Randle, Nerlens Noel and Immanuel Quickley all had big performances to get New York back in the win column after their nine-game winning streak was snapped vs. Phoenix on Monday.

Julius Randle wasn’t at his best vs. Phoenix, but he responded with a 34-point outing last night that included four 3-pointers.

Nerlens Noel kept up his play as one of the NBA’s most effective defenders at the rim. He was all over the box score, scoring 8 points and grabbing 8 rebounds while adding 5 blocks and 4 steals on the defensive end. He is currently third in the NBA in blocked shots per game at just over two — and he plays just 24 minutes a night.

If we look at the leaders in blocks per-36 minutes of the guys who have played at least 50 games, Noel is first, narrowly edging two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. Nerlens is playing exceptional basketball in the best situation of his career. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Then we have Immanuel Quickley. The neophyte continues to be a fourth-quarter firecracker. At the beginning of the final quarter, New York led by just one, 76-75, before IQ ran off 11 points in six minutes to bust the game wide open.

New York scored on their first four possessions of the quarter with Immanuel hitting a floater, two free throws and a 31-foot three-point shot on three of them. Two possessions later, he dropped in two more foul shots and drained another floater on the ensuing trip. Foul trouble kept him out from there but IQ had put the Knicks up 14 almost singlehandedly in time for Randle to check back in and finish things off.

This Knicks team is full of Kentucky alumni and has been one of the more fun stories of the year. If you haven’t yet, please hop on the bandwagon. It won’t disappoint.

OTHER NOTES

Anthony Davis has best game since return. Anthony Davis still doesn’t look like the two-way superstar that co-piloted a Finals victory with LeBron James, but he finally filled up the stat sheet the way we’re used to seeing. In a loss to Washington, AD converted 10-20 shots for 26 points, also adding 5 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks. 

Maxey stays hot. Tyrese Maxey keeps impressing in his limited role with the Eastern Conference contenders. He’s posted between 10 and 15 points in each of his last six games for Philly and in his last two, he’s shot 10-11 from the field for 22 points. Late in the year, Tyrese is playing his most consistent basketball.

Kings get walloped without Fox. If you’ve read these recaps throughout the year, I’m sure you’re familiar with my utter disdain for the Sacramento Kings. Last night was another example of how pathetic a franchise they are. Without their only beacon of hope — De’Aaron Fox is in COVID protocol right now — Sac-town fell by nearly 50 in an obscene 154-105 loss to Utah. Get Luke Walton out of there. Get the Kings off my TV screen. 

STATISTICS

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Julius Randle (NYK)113-94 W vs. CHI3412-23
(4-7)
73010+2136
Anthony Davis (LAL)116-107 L @ WAS2610-20
(2-5)
52323-1331
Devin Booker (PHO)109-101 W vs. LAC219-19
(1-6)
63003+1137
Bam Adebayo (MIA)116-111 W vs. SAS217-11
(0-0)
112102-632
PJ Washington (CHO)120-111 L @ BOS198-16
(2-6)
32111+339
Eric Bledsoe (NOP)114-112 L @ DEN177-12
(2-6)
34203+227
Keldon Johnson (SAS)116-111 W @ MIA145-8
(0-2)
60000-1428
Immanuel Quickley (NYK)113-94 W vs. CHI134-10
(1-5)
21201+816
Tyrese Maxey (PHI)127-83 W vs. ATL115-6
(1-2)
22000+1614
Rajon Rondo (LAC)109-101 L @ PHO94-8
(1-3)
47202+025
Nerlens Noel (NYK)113-94 W vs. CHI83-6
(0-1)
83450+2429
Enes Kanter (POR)130-109 W @ MEM63-4
(0-0)
81000+411
Patrick Patterson (LAC)109-101 L @ PHO21-3
(0-0)
20000+113
Kevin Knox (NYK)113-94 W vs. CHI00-0
(0-0)
10000-11
Wenyen Gabriel (NOP)114-112 L @ DEN00-1
(0-0)
10200+118

TODAY IN THE NBA

7:00: Mavericks (Cauley-Stein) @ Pistons (Diallo)

7:00: Nets @ Pacers

8:00: Bucks @ Rockets

8:00: Warriors (Mulder) @ Timberwolves (Towns, Vanderbilt)

9:00: Pelicans (Bledsoe, Gabriel) @ Thunder

9:00: Raptors @ Nuggets

Article written by Alex Weber

@alexweberKSR on Twitter.