NEW YORK (AP) — Steve Nash provided the beautiful point guard play that once made Mike D’Antoni’s offense hum and now is sorely lacking.
Then, Shannon Brown crushed the Knicks with a 3-pointer that nearly bounced over the basket before bouncing in, a shot as ugly as this game.
“Probably about par for the course,” Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said.
Nash had 26 points and 11 assists, and the Suns snapped a five-game losing streak with a 91-88 victory over the Knicks on Wednesday night.
Brown and Grant Hill each scored 14 points for the Suns, who bounced back from an embarrassing 118-97 loss to a Chicago team without Derrick Rose a night earlier.
They got help with a lucky bounce on Brown’s 3-pointer from the corner that bounced off the rim, then the top of the center of the basket before falling in to give them a five-point lead with 35 seconds left. Nash made it stand up with six free throws in the last 16 seconds.
Gentry said Nash, who shot 9 of 12, is playing as well as he did in his MVP seasons under D’Antoni. Nash said playing his former coach and teammate Amare Stoudemire, in the city where he lives in the summer, was “a homecoming in some ways” but denied any extra significance in beating them.
“Right now, we could have beat anybody and it’d be sweet,” Nash said. “It’s been a tough year, we’ve had a tough stretch, so for us, any win is a huge relief and hopefully will give us some confidence and maybe get us going a little bit.”
Stoudemire scored 23 points for the Knicks, who have lost four straight and can’t find answers for their offensive struggles.
“I know we’re 6-8, I know we’re in a little bit of a crisis here,” D’Antoni said. “But we’re playing hard, playing good defense. There’s some good things we’re doing. We’ve just got to figure out the one part and that’s the part that should be easiest. It’s become a problem, and if we solve it, we’ll be pretty good. We just have to do it sooner rather than later.”
Iman Shumpert added 20 points and Landry Fields had 17, but Carmelo Anthony, perhaps still bothered by a sore left wrist, shot just 5 of 22 while finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Anthony did not speak to the media. A Knicks spokesman said he left because of a family issue.
Hill hit jumpers for the Suns’ last three baskets of the third quarter, giving them a 64-61 edge. The Knicks then managed just two field goals in the first six minutes of the fourth, and Phoenix finally got some room when a 10-4 run, ending with consecutive baskets by Brown, made it 78-71.
Shumpert’s 3-pointer cut it to 82-80 before Brown answered with his 3 from the corner that had to be reviewed.
“I got a good look at the basket. I feel it had enough air under it and it was soft enough where it hit the basket and went up and it fell in,” Brown said. “I knew it was a big shot.”
“Just trying to help my team win and today I was part of it,” Brown added after scoring nine in the fourth quarter. “We lost a whole bunch in a row and it’s good that we got a win.”
Shumpert made another 3, but Nash kept hitting from the line, and it ended when Shumpert’s rushed 3 from near midcourt was nowhere near the basket.
Tyson Chandler grabbed 17 rebounds for the Knicks on a night there were plenty of missed shots as both teams showed why they have been struggling so much early in the season.
The surprising culprits have been the team’s offenses, with both struggling just to reach 90 points during their skids. That’s particularly hard to imagine in Phoenix, where the Suns remained potent long after D’Antoni brought his high-powered system to New York, and comes just a year after the teams combined for 250 points here in the Suns’ 129-121 victory.
“That’s pretty ironic you know, because obviously most of the things we do is what Mike did when he was there,” Gentry said before the game. “There’s a few things that we’ve changed, but it’s kind of a mystery to me. I can’t put my finger on the fact that we’re struggling to get to 100 every game. I thought that would be one of the areas where we’d have the least worries and it’s become just the opposite.”
Gentry shook up his rotation in an effort to balance things after noticing the Suns were 27th in the NBA in second-quarter scoring. Rookie Markieff Morris made his first start at forward and Ronnie Price got the nod at shooting guard.
Turns out he didn’t the extra scoring, because the Knicks remained in a seemingly season-long shooting slump.
It was the sixth straight game the Knicks failed to reach 100 points, their second-longest streak under D’Antoni, according to STATS, LLC. They went seven games in a row early in the 2009-10 season, when they had little talent while clearing cap space for free agency.
Now they have All-Star talent in Stoudemire and Anthony, but the offense just isn’t running smoothly without a veteran point guard. They are hoping that when Baron Davis finally is ready from a herniated disc in his back sometime around the end of the month that he can change that.
“We can’t keep making excuses,” Stoudemire said. “We need to start pushing forward and get over the hump offensively.”
The Knicks wrap up their string of four homes in six nights with a back-to-back against Milwaukee and Denver on Friday and Saturday.
Notes: D’Antoni said C Jerome Jordan and G Jeremy Lin, assigned Tuesday to Erie of the NBA Development League, would probably return near the end of the month when Davis is back and the team will want to play 5-on-5 in practice. … The Knicks played without reserve guard Bill Walker, who has a sore right knee.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)