PHOENIX (AP) New York’s Julius Randle yelled at Phoenix’s Cam Johnson, bumped chests with him and then shoved him again for good measure.
That turned out to be a huge mistake.
Johnson responded with a brilliant fourth quarter after Randle was ejected, banking in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to finish with a career-high 38 points and give the Suns a wild 115-114 victory over the Knicks on Friday night.
”Just thankful that it went down,” Johnson said. ”I love my guys.”
Johnson’s ninth 3-pointer in 12 tries came from 31 feet at the top of the key, capping a 21-point fourth quarter that included six 3s. The NBA-leading Suns, playing without All-Star guards Chris Paul and Devin Booker, improved to 51-12.
The Knicks looked like they were headed for an impressive road win before Randle’s ill-timed outburst late in the third quarter sent him to the locker room.
Randle and Johnson were called for technicals after bumping chests and exchanging words. A referee separated the two, but then Randle barreled through the ref to shove Johnson again, which earned the ejection.
”I had the opportunity to continue playing,” Johnson said. ”And he didn’t.”
Said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau: ”You’ve got to know where to stop. None of us are perfect and we are going to make mistakes, but you’ve got to be disciplined.”
Johnson said the feud with Randle had been brewing over the course of multiple games between the teams. Johnson took a hard shoulder to the chest from Randle on Friday in the first quarter, which knocked the wind out of him and sent him to the locker room briefly. Johnson said he thought the move ”felt cheap” and set the stage for the later confrontation.
New York blew a 14-point lead in Randle’s absence, but Mitchell Robinson’s layup with 15 seconds left gave the Knicks a 113-112 lead. Alec Burks added a free throw to give the Knicks a 114-112 advantage – but missed his second attempt – giving the Suns an opportunity in the final seconds.
That’s when Johnson capped his huge night with his biggest shot, sinking the long 3-pointer after Cam Payne’s drove the court and flipped the ball back to Johnson. The sharpshooter’s aim was long, but smacked off the glass and through the hoop to set off a wild celebration.
”I just couldn’t stop saying, `I’m proud of you, bro,”’ Suns forward Jae Crowder said.
The Knicks – up 86-76 when Randle was tossed – have lost seven straight.
”I told our guys after the interaction that happened – `OK, we’re going to win this game,”’ Williams said. ”We just had to have the mental fortitude to take it one possession at a time. It was amazing to see our group, the huddles, every time out, it never felt like we were out of it.”
Randle scored 25 points, and Robinson added 17 points and 15 rebounds.
Paul has been out with a broken thumb since Feb. 16 and could miss the rest of the regular season. Booker missed his second straight game because he’s in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocol.
Payne finished with 17 points and 16 assists. Mikal Bridges had 20 points.
Knicks: All five starters scored in double figures. … Slam dunk winner Obi Toppin was a late scratch with a strained left hamstring.
Suns: Hosted a 20th consecutive sellout crowd of 17,071 at the Footprint Center. … The team’s bench scored 50 points, led by Johnson’s 38. Aaron Holiday added 10 and JaVale McGee added two. … It was Johnson’s first technical of his career.
Knicks: At Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.
Suns: At Milwaukee on Sunday.
Courtesy: CBS Sports