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Knicks at Suns: How & Who to Watch as Road Trip Continues

The New York Knicks hit a roadblock in their western swing on Friday, but there's another opportunity as the weekend closes.

The sun rises on a new day for thhe relatively reeling New York Knicks. It's their job to darken it as the weekend draws to a close. 

Facing the penultimate leg of their five-game Western Conference tour, the Knicks will look to atone for their first loss of the trip against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday afternoon. 

New York took home the first two segements of the western swing in Utah and Denver, winning consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 21-26. The mini-streak was stopped at two, however, as the Knicks dropped a 111-101 decision to the Golden State Warriors on Friday. Jericho Sims was the most efficient Knicks in defeat, earning his second double-double in three games with 10 points and rebounds each.

Phoenix, the West's defending No. 1 seed, enters on the struggling note without the services of the injured Chris Paul. The Suns have dropped five of their past eight after a 6-1 start, the most recent being a 134-133 defeat at the hands of Utah on Friday night. Devin Booker, he of 49 points, fell two rebounds short of a triple-double in defeat. 

The Knicks and Suns do battle twice this year, with the Madison Square Garden rematch scheduled for Jan. 2. Phoenix took both meetings last season, including a one-point win at MSG in March. 

What: New York Knicks (8-8) at Phoenix Suns (9-6)

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ

When/Watch: Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET, MSG/MSG Go

Keep An Eye On: Quentin Grimes

In the past six months, Grimes has worn many labels: Summer League hero, trade bait, untouchable in Donovan Mitchell discussions, injury report rep, and, as it stands, healthy scratch. 

A sore foot has undoubtedly played into Grimes' struggle to make a bigger name for himself in the Knicks' lineup. Head coach Tom Thibodeau continues to refer to his status as "situational." But Grimes is a 12th man in a nine-player rotation, which isn't exactly ideal for a first-round choice that entered his sophomore season with so much hope. It got to the point where Thibodeau was asked for a G League assisgnment was possible, though the Knicks' boss quickly brushed off the notion.

"It’s tough, just coming in off the summer, everything that was going on," Grimes, averaging seven minutes in six games, said. "I had high expectations for myself as well.”

Opportunity may come knocking for Grimes on Sunday: with Cam Reddish nursing a sore groin after drawing Steph Curry duty on Friday night in San Francisco, he'd likely be the first name in line for a medically-induced promotion, even though he's been limited to two minutes over the last three games (held out of the Utah and Denver visits enitrely). If he does get the call on Sunday, he needs to take full advantage.

Sun to Watch: Cameron Payne

Though the Suns have noticeably struggled without Paul, it's hardly the fault of his replacement Payne. The 28-year-old is off to a career-best start, averaging a career-best 13.5 points and discovering a newfound three-point shooting ability (2.2 per game, another personal-best thus far.)

"(He has a) ittle turbo, man, just plays with pace and works so hard," teammate Mikal Briidges said of the work Payne's done. "We’ve known him for all of these years and I know how hard he works. He’s stepping up. As (Paul) goes down, he steps up. He’s playing how he’s supposed to play."

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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