Recent victories have the Phoenix Suns feeling positive about the future. The New York Knicks aren't likely to share that rosy outlook, especially on this extended trip.
Devin Booker and Alex Len will try to continue giving the Suns a glimpse into what may be in store next season as they try to beat the downtrodden Knicks on Wednesday night.
Phoenix (17-46) is all but assured of missing the playoffs for a sixth straight season, but it's shown signs of life by winning three of five after dropping 13 straight. The Suns are trying to match their season-high three-game winning streak from Nov. 12-16 after a 109-100 win at Memphis on Sunday.
"We're showing we're not giving up," Booker said. "We're not in the playoffs. A lot of people think this is the time for us to fold and get ready for the summer. But it's not. We're doing it for next year already.
"I think we're turning over a new leaf as a team. Overall, we've been playing better. I think things are starting to click."
They sure are for Booker, who is averaging 20.6 points over the last five games - an increase of nearly 11 over the previous six. The rookie, who was a one-and-done at Kentucky last season, is also getting comfortable dealing with the rigors of the NBA.
"I'm 19, playing in a league full of grown men. I have to have that chip on my shoulder," he said. "Going into the game, I can't be the kid that's soft that they take advantage of right away. No one's going to go after Tyson (Chandler). He's been in the league 15 years."
Booker held his own with 27 points and nine assists Sunday, while Len scored 19 and added 16 rebounds and six assists.
Like Booker, Len is giving the Suns reason to believe in a brighter future. The 22-year-old center, the fifth overall pick in 2013, is averaging 20.4 points and 14.4 boards over the last five games.
"We're taking steps forward in the right direction," interim coach Earl Watson said.
It didn't look that way in a 102-84 loss at New York on Jan. 29. Booker had a team-high 21 points, but Len only had six with seven boards as the Suns shot 41.2 percent from the floor, including 7 of 26 from beyond the arc.
That victory for the Knicks, however, is one of only four over their last 21 games. They fell for the 10th time in 11 on the road Tuesday, losing 110-94 to Denver in the opener of a six-game trip which marks their longest since 2005-06.
Carmelo Anthony led New York with 30 points against his former team, but the rest of the starters could only manage 23 while making 10 of 26 from the floor.
Anthony is averaging 26.4 points over the last five games, while heralded rookie Kristaps Porzingis has put up 10.3 while playing in four of them. He returned Tuesday after missing a game with a bruised left leg and scored six points on 3-of-11 shooting.
Porzingis could only muster seven points and as many rebounds against Phoenix, while Anthony fell two assists shy of a triple-double with 19 points and 10 boards.