NEW YORK — Playing for the second straight day to finish a cross-country trip featuring the toughest tests in the East, Devin Booker told his coach he was ready to play the whole fourth quarter.
“We wanted this one. We wanted this one bad, just for ourselves,” Booker said. “I mean obviously we knew about the streak that they had going on and we knew that this was going to be a dogfight.”
Booker and Chris Paul made sure the Suns won it.
Booker scored 33 points and Phoenix capped its trip with a 118-110 victory Monday night that snapped the New York Knicks' nine-game winning streak.
Paul scored the final seven Phoenix points as the Suns held on to finish 3-2 on their trip that included visits to the top four teams in the Eastern Conference.
Beaten a day earlier by Brooklyn, they fell down by 15 quickly inside Madison Square Garden but refused to stay down.
“Everybody was messing with the young guys before the game like, this ain’t just a regular game,” Paul said. “With the way that team’s playing over there, this was a fun game.”
Mikal Bridges added 21 points, Paul had 20 and Cameron Johnson hit three 3-pointers in the final period after the game was tied at 87 through three.
But even after going ahead by nine with 2:53 to play, the Suns couldn't finish it off until Paul hit a couple jumpers — the second to barely beat the shot clock — and then a 3-pointer with 14.5 seconds remaining to close out the win.
Derrick Rose had 22 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Knicks, who were on their longest winning streak since a 13-game run late in the 2012-13 season. Julius Randle scored 18 points but was off his form from most of the streak, shooting just 6 for 17 with six rebounds and four assists.
The Suns started their trip by beating Milwaukee and Philadelphia, but then fell in Boston and Brooklyn, giving them consecutive losses for the first time since a three-game skid in late January.
It appeared they might be headed for another when the Knicks made 18 of their first 25 shots, taking a 44-29 lead. Phoenix didn't lead until 1:31 remained in the third quarter, but Bridges and Johnson got hot in the fourth to send the Suns in front and Paul kept them there.
“You can’t have the type of record that they have without being a high-quality team, so you’re not going to beat them just playing well for 12 minutes. That’s not going to get it done,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “So it’s going to be a street fight and you’ve got to compete.”
Suns: Phoenix was again without Jae Crowder and Dario Saric because of ankle injuries. ... For the second straight day, Suns coach Monty Williams wore an FDNY hat before the game. He said he purchased it on a visit to the city's 9-11 Memorial over the weekend. He said he's always been a fan of firemen. “I just wanted to get a hat so I can remember and never forget what they do for us every day, but especially what happened in our country years ago,” Williams said.
Knicks: RJ Barrett and Reggie Bullock each scored 17 points. ... Randle averaged 30.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 6.2 assists during the streak.
Thibodeau and Williams coached against each other for the first time since they served as assistant coaches to Mike Krzyzewski on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team. Williams said they became good friends during their stint, which also included the 2014 Basketball World Cup in Spain, adding that Thibodeau gave him a favourite gift, without specifying what it was.
“We just had a really good time together and I learned a ton from him,” Williams said. “He’s a brilliant basketball coach.”
PAUL AND THE PRESIDENT
Paul chatted before the game with Knicks President Leon Rose, his former agent. Asked about the Knicks' interest in acquiring Paul last off-season before he ended up in Phoenix, Thibodeau joked: “Well, I don’t think he liked the president here.”
“A player like that, look at what stage he’s at in his career,” Thibodeau added. “He’s looking at what might be the best fit for him and he’s earned it. He’s had an incredible career.”
Suns: Host the Clippers on Wednesday.
Knicks: Host Chicago on Wednesday.
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