(AP) — The New York Knicks routed the Phoenix Suns earlier this month by thriving from 3-point range, as Amare Stoudemire made his return to the desert in the opener of a four-game road trip.
The Suns might see a slightly less confident Knicks team as they open a five-game trip at Madison Square Garden.
New York turned in its worst shooting performance of the season in a surprising loss upon returning home, an effort it will try to avoid replicating Monday against Phoenix.
The Knicks (22-17) hit 17 of 33 3-pointers as they beat the Suns 121-96 on Jan. 7, and Stoudemire was upstaged by his own teammate in his highly anticipated return to Phoenix. Raymond Felton matched Stoudemire with 23 points and also recorded 11 assists and 10 rebounds for his first career triple-double.
New York dropped two of three to close the trip, then looked rather jet-lagged in its return to MSG on Friday. Felton shot 2 of 15 and scored a season-low six points, and the Knicks’ 31.5 percent shooting was easily their worst mark of the season in a 93-83 loss to Western Conference-worst Sacramento.
“It was just one of those nights,” Felton said. “It happens, you have to put in behind you. … We just have to try and rest, get used to the East Coast. We kind of (got) messed up on that West Coast swing. It is tough, but a game like this we have to win.”
Stoudemire is shooting 34.2 percent since helping beat the Suns (17-21).
“We have to make sure that we are ready for Phoenix,” he said. “I am pretty sure they are seeking revenge, so we have to be ready for those guys. We have to make sure we understand our upcoming schedule so we have to get our mind right and get ready for those big games. First up is Phoenix.”
The Knicks might get a big boost as they look for a third straight home win over the Suns. Danilo Gallinari, who’s missed the last six games with a sprained left knee, is likely to return.
Gallinari had 27 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 6 of 12 from 3-point range in Phoenix’s last visit to MSG, a 126-99 New York win Dec. 1, 2009.
The Knicks have been awfully tough to beat when the forward is contributing from beyond the arc. They’re 16-4 when Gallinari hits at least two 3-pointers.
The Suns have lost four straight away from home, but they’ll hit the road with some momentum. Phoenix rallied from 11 down after three quarters to beat New Jersey 118-109 in overtime Wednesday, and shot 53.8 percent in a 115-111 win over Portland on Friday.
Despite a difficult first half of the season while adjusting to life without Stoudemire, the Suns are 2 1/2 games out of the final West playoff spot.
“I think we can build off this,” said reserve forward Jared Dudley, who has averaged 15.5 points in his last 12 games. “You have to win the home games because now we go on this road trip, and hopefully we can win most of them if not all of them. It’s definitely a beginning.”
Steve Nash, who’s averaged 22.0 points and 15.3 assists in Phoenix’s three wins this month, has scored 12.4 points against the Knicks since the start of the 2007-08 season – his second-worst average against any team in that span.
Updated January 16, 2011
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