Knicks lose track of Eric Gordon in loss to depleted Suns

Knicks lose track of Eric Gordon in loss to depleted Suns

The Knicks may have beaten the Phoenix Suns had it not been for Eric Gordon, the deep-three threat who lit up The Garden for 25 points, including 11 in the game’s opening five minutes on Sunday night.

Gordon shot six-of-nine from downtown and personally outscored the Knicks 11-6 in the game’s opening moments.

He was next-up in the rotation with starters Kevin Durant (foot), Bradley Beal (back) and Grayson Allen (ill) all out of the rotation, and the Knicks didn’t do a good job of accounting for him — an egregious oversight given his 15-year track record as a 37 percent or better shooter from downtown.

“[We were] low-energy,” said head coach Tom Thibodeau. “So our initial defense was okay and then second and third effort not there. [We] let them pass the ball out of the double team easily. And then [we were] slow, a step behind. You can’t give people confidence. And then after a guy hits one he should’t get a second, third and fourth one.”

Knicks backup center Isaiah Hartenstein is familiar with Gordon’s capabilities personally. Gordon was Hartenstein’s teammate on the Houston Rockets during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, and the reserve Knicks big man made an astute observation of his former teammate’s practice habits.

“I kinda know he can shoot it from deep,” Hartenstein said postgame. “When I was with him, we had a four-point line (in practice). He would be shooting from that with the Rockets. So I always had a lot of respect for him.

“Really I think all of it is we didn’t play as hard as we should have. He made some tough shots but then also some rotations we didn’t have right.”

Josh Hart said Gordon got open because of all the attention paid to Booker, who finished with a game-high 11 assists on the night.

“We were blitzing Book, and the thing about Book is he’s very efficient but he plays the game the right way,” Hart said. “When someone’s open, he makes the easy pass. He’s not worried about numbers or stats or stuff like that. He just makes the easy pass. And when you’re blitzing, you’re in rotation and sometimes guys get easy shots. Unfortunately that’s what happened.

“Maybe we could have had a little bit of extra effort in trying to get [Gordon] off the line, but you have to give them credit.”

Jalen Brunson said the Knicks were cooked when Gordon got hot early.

“I think he got confidence early,” he said. “Obviously, he’s a great shooter. He has confidence. But a shooter like that, once he sees it go through the hoop, it’s basically you gotta be on his body or it’s going up. So, he felt good early and — yeah.”

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