Suns 56, Knicks 39 (halftime)

Wednesday’s triple OT defeat of the Pistons seems like a very distant memory for the Knicks this evening, as Steve Nash is running rings around Stephon Marbury, while noted Steph-sparring partner Kurt Thomas (above) has 10 points against his former club.

From the backhanded compliment file, the New York Post’s Peter Vescey pays tribute to Isiah Thomas’ shorthanded Knicks winning 4 of 5.

Thomas’ coaching noticeably improved the moment his rotation got shortened by suspensions and injuries, meaning fewer genius thoughts and fewer chances to cause substitution and situational slip-ups. That translates into happier and less inhibited (as well as lengthier) players. Their fear factor of being yanked has been greatly diminished. Minutes and roles are more consistent and clearer.

Thomas wasn’t the only one rooting against the fog ever lifting on the Baltimore tarmac. Surely that explains why Quentin Richardson’s therapy for back spasms is extended “Limbo” lessons. And some of you dared to believe Nate Robinson’s warning label states he’s an anti-coagulant.

Alas, the flaming five-game western swing to wring out the old and ring in the new begins tonight in Phoenix. If I’m Thomas, I’m twitching in apprehension; fans and the free media may expect more nights like Wednesday. This tends to be the case when your payroll hovers around the national debt and your team is wont to perform like a national disgrace.

The Daily News’ Frank Isola, while not printing playoff tickets just yet, prefers criticism of the more constructive variety.

The one thing Isiah Thomas learned in the aftermath of the brawl is that less is more. Marbury and Crawford should be the starting backcourt and Thomas should find a veteran backup “- an Anthony Johnson type “- who can play either position. The Knicks don™t need Steve Francis and he doesn™t want to be here anyway.

You have to wonder about where Nate Robinson fits in. I™ve never big on undersized guards and I™ve always felt that Earl Boykins is one of the most overrated players in the league. As a 12th man, Nate would give Isiah some insurance in the backcourt. Otherwise I would drop him from the rotation.

Since Isiah seems committed to using David Lee off the bench, Lee should be used to play all front court positions. His rebounding and hustle are the same intangibles that Charles Oakley and Marcus Camby once gave the Knicks.

Lee has been the team™s most important player to date, followed by Eddy Curry, Crawford and Marbury. Not surprisingly, those players have logged the most minutes this season.

The Nets received strong contributions from their big 3 of Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson (above) and Jason Kidd in tonight’s 91-81 defeat of the Heat, playing sans D-Wade and the suspended James Posey.

Stu Jackson can do whatever he wants to the latter, just so long as he doesn’t interfere with the cinematic career of James’ sister Parker.

Speaking of Flash, I suppose we’re all very lucky neither he nor members of his family were recruited to make a late season cameo on the Miami-based “Nip/Tuck”.

Basketbawful did a nice job of chronicling Al Harrington’s mohwak-mania, but neglects to mention that Al might’ve well been inspired by the early hair styles of his former Hawks coach, Terry “Richie” Stotts.