Back-to-back wins over a pair of Western Conference contenders to start a pivotal road trip provided a glimpse of the consistency the New York Knicks have been seeking for most of the last two seasons.
But if Friday's loss to the Golden State Warriors was any indication, that glimpse might have just been a mirage.
The Knicks will look to clinch a winning record on their five-game road swing Sunday afternoon when they visit the Phoenix Suns in the first clash this season between the teams.
Both clubs were off Saturday after falling Friday night, when the Knicks lost to the Warriors 111-101 and the Suns were nipped by the host Utah Jazz, 134-133.
The loss represented a step back for the Knicks, who built just their second winning streak of the season by beating the Jazz 118-111 on Tuesday night before edging the Denver Nuggets, 106-103, the next night.
But the Knicks squandered a chance to take advantage of the defending NBA champion Warriors, who were just 6-9 entering Friday night. Golden State raced to a 35-19 lead after the first quarter, led by as many as 22 points in the second quarter and never allowed New York to get closer than eight points in the second half.
"The second, third and fourth quarters, we played the way we needed to play in the first quarter," Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. "But we had given them such a cushion that we didn't give ourselves a real chance."
The Knicks still have a chance at their most successful road trip in more than eight years. New York, which finishes the trip at Oklahoma City on Monday night, hasn't posted a winning record on a road trip of five games or longer since going 3-2 on a West Coast trek from March 25-31, 2014.
"We've still got a chance to make it a great trip," Knicks forward Julius Randle said. "We've got two more games, two more very winnable games. We've got a chance to make it a great trip and go back home feeling pretty good about ourselves."
A slow start Friday was typical of an inconsistent stretch for the Suns, who have gone 3-5 since a five-game winning streak (Oct. 23 to Nov. 1). Phoenix, which beat the Warriors 130-119 on Wednesday night, had a chance to win a second straight Friday but fell behind Utah by 19 points in the first quarter and trailed by as many as 15 points in the second quarter.
The Suns came all the way back and tied the game twice -- once in the final minute of the third and again in the opening seconds of the fourth -- before Damian Lee hit a 3-pointer to give the visitors their lone lead at 121-120 with 7:28 left. But Phoenix was 3 of 14 with two turnovers the rest of the way, a span in which it missed nine shots with a chance to tie the score or retake the lead.
"We were fighting uphill all game," said Suns guard Devin Booker, who scored 49 points but had just four points in the fourth quarter. "I think we gave them a lot of confidence to start the game."
Suns point guard Chris Paul missed his fifth straight game with a sore right heel and has already been ruled out for Sunday.
--Field Level Media