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Knicks close out road trip on high note with win over Suns

Michael Beasley of the Knicks slam dunks the

Michael Beasley of the Knicks slam dunks the ball against the Suns during the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018 in Phoenix. Credit: Getty Images / Christian Petersen

PHOENIX — Lance Thomas had seen enough. He had seen enough of the Knicks playing poor defense on this long road trip to last a lifetime. So the veteran did something about it.

Thomas and Courtney Lee called a players-only meeting on Friday before the Knicks faced the Suns in the finale of a seven-game trip.

Did it help? Probably. It also helped that the Knicks were facing a struggling Suns team that had lost five of six coming in.

Whatever the reason, the Knicks ended the trip on a high note with a 107-85 victory at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Enes Kanter had 20 points and 10 rebounds as the Knicks (22-28) finished the trip 3-4. Kristaps Porzingis scored 19 and Tim Hardaway Jr. — who took two hard falls — had 15.

Third-string point guard Trey Burke had his second straight 18-point game, with 16 of them coming in the fourth quarter.

T.J. Warren’s 20 points led the Suns (17-32).

The Knicks had lost three in a row and 14 of 18 and entered the game 6-19 on the road. Now they will get to rest until Tuesday night, when they return to the Garden to host the Nets before hitting the road again.

The Knicks were coming off their worst defensive effort of the season in a 130-118 loss at Denver on Thursday night. They allowed 73 points in the first half and a season-high points total for the game, leaving coach Jeff Hornacek exasperated and Thomas repeating “we’ve got to play harder” afterward. They did against the Suns.

“I think the first, second, third and fourth — we brought it all quarters,” Kanter said. “We started the game really well and not just offensively. Defensively.”

The Knicks were playing their third game in four nights, but they were the fresher team at the start. They took a 22-7 lead less than five minutes into the game behind Kanter’s 10 points. He finished the quarter with 15 as the Knicks took a 33-23 lead.

It was a stark difference from Thursday’s first quarter in Denver, when the Knicks allowed 39 points, including 20 in the paint. “They really got after it,” Hornacek said. “I’m really happy to see at the end of a [long] road trip. Most teams kind of cash that last one in because they’re ready to go home. Our guys, they came out here and they really D’d up.”

Hardaway, who returned after resting on Thursday, gave the Knicks a scare when he went down 6:19 into the game and grabbed his right ankle. He stayed in the game.

The Knicks took a 53-49 lead into halftime before pulling away in the third, going up by as many as 16.

Hardaway went down hard again with 8:55 left in the quarter as he was pulled down from behind by the Suns’ Devin Booker on a breakaway attempt. Booker was called for a flagrant foul 1.

Hardaway, after spending a long time down behind the basket, limped to the free-throw line and hit two shots to give the Knicks a 64-51 lead. He then went back to the locker room before returning to the floor.

Booker earned his second technical and was ejected from the game less than five minutes later after an altercation with Kanter under the Knicks’ basket. Kanter, who also was called for a technical, had blocked Booker’s shot and appeared to say something to Booker, who reacted with a bump and shove.

Kanter admitted he had the flagrant foul on Hardaway on his mind.

“I know I’m going to get fined,” he said. “I’ll take the fine and I’ll take the win.”

New York Sports