Hooray, the West Coast trip from Hell has ended! Thank God for the Jazz. They were the team we last won against over a week ago, and the Knicks got some welcomed relief facing them again last night and grinding out a 90-83 victory in Utah. Without Melo or Tyson, it didn’t come easy, but the Knicks fought through their offensive droughts and won this game on the defensive end.
SOLID DEFENSE, SUBPAR OFFENSE IN THE FIRST HALF: One of the trends on this road trip has been the Knicks coming out fighting hard, only to start slowly falling apart due to the offense having no one being able to consistently get their own shots.
With last night’s game, the Knicks were able to hang tough due to their defense and the sloppy play of the Jazz, who had 5 turnovers in the first quarter. That, coupled with Raymond Felton (9 points) and Chris Copeland (7 points) contributing, allowed the Knicks to have a small 23-21 lead.
The second quarter saw the age of the Knicks frontcourt working against them with Marcus Camby and Kenyon Martin picking up a lot of early fouls. The Jazz were inconsistent at the line, but the Knicks shooting dipped to 42% and buckets were hard to come by in the final minutes. A few too many iso Chris Copeland plays lead to the Jazz going on a 8-0 run punctuated by an buzzer-beating jumper by Mo Williams to get them a halftime 44-42 lead.
TOOTH N’ NAIL 3RD: The Knicks really fought hard in the third quarter. This was great to see aS this West Coast losing streak has displayed bad thirds. JR Smith had a great quarter with 10 points and Jazz bigs like Derrick Favors did the Knicks a solid by bricking free throws. It was up and down, but for the Knicks to have a 66-63 lead going into the fourth was massive progress.
KURT THOMAS AND FELTON CLOSE THE SHOW: When you look at Kurt Thomas’s stat line (6 points, 3 rebounds, 3 blocks), it doesn’t begin to show how important he was last night. Old man Kurt gave the Jazz bigs fits, causing deflections and being able to hold his ground and keep them from truly taking advantage of the size and youth mismatches. In addition, Thomas gave good screens on offense that lead to a key JR Smith trey to extend the Knicks lead to 78-72.
Felton stepped up his game too by being aggressive taking it to the rim and hitting outside jumpers. He had 7 points in the quarter and even found Kurt Thomas rolling to the rim for an easy layup.
The Jazz refused to go away (Mo Williams had 5 straight points to get the Jazz to within 81-84), but the Knicks met every run with either a key basket or free throws.
In other needed good news, Carmelo Anthony’s knee is feeling better and Tyson Chandler is also on the mend. If all goes well, we should have both back by the end of the week. And in the meantime, the schedule is less taxing in the coming days. Next up, the Knicks go for another sweep when they face the Magic on Wednesday.[youtube http://youtu.be/p9gnZ43TOjo]