Usually, when Knicks fans hear the term “West Coast trip,” they cover their eyes and ears in fear. Afterwards, if you listen closely, you’ll even hear Knicks fans whispering prayers, hoping that the results won’t be as bad as they expect it to be.
Last night, the New York Knicks (32-43) went into Utah with a chance to finish the West Coast trip with a winning record -- the first since the ’99-’00 season. The Knicks succeeded in doing so and beat the struggling Jazz (23-52) 92-83.
The Jazz opened up a 10-point lead five minutes into the 2nd quarter, but the Knicks erased that lead before the half. The Knicks made a late run in the 3rd to push the lead to double-digits and never looked back.
This win can be attributed to the Knicks superb defense. In the 2nd half, the Knicks held the struggling Jazz offense to 34 points off of 33% shooting from the field and 2-13 shooting from 3-point range.
Alec Burks made a deep 3-pointer to give the Jazz a 38-28 advantage, then the Knicks came storming back. In a 2-minute span, the Knicks went on a 7-0 run to cut the Jazz lead to two. Off a long inbound pass from Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith made a corner 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds remaining to bring the Knicks within one.
At halftime, the Jazz led 49-48. Anthony led the Knicks with 18 points, and Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 11 points. Enes Kanter contributed with 10 points off the bench.
After Utah opened up the 3rd with two straight baskets, New York went on a 15-2 run to take a 63-55 lead. During the run, New York hit three consecutive threes -- one each from Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Anthony.
Burks nailed a 3-pointer to cap off a 12-4 Jazz run to tie the game with 4:22 remaining, but the Knicks pushed the lead to 10 with a 12-2 run to end the quarter. Anthony and Hardaway Jr. scored all the points for the Knicks during that run -- Anthony and Hardaway Jr. accounted for 22 (Anthony - 14, Hardaway Jr. - 8) of the Knicks 31 points in the 3rd.
Smith opened up the 4th with a 3-pointer, and Raymond Felton followed with a floater to give the Knicks a 15-point cushion, their largest lead. Utah never threatened to get back into the game and the Knicks went on to win comfortably.
New York ended the West Coast trip with a 3-2 record, and now the Knicks face the tough part of their schedule. All of New York’s remaining games are against playoff teams, starting with the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.
New York currently trails Atlanta by one game for the 8th spot.
Key Stats: Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 34 points and 8 rebounds. Tyson Chandler finished with 15 points and 9 rebounds. J.R. Smith scored 13 points. Raymond Felton finished with 12 points and 6 assists. Tim Hardaway Jr. finished with 10 points off the bench.
Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 18 points. Alec Burks had 17 points and 7 rebounds off the bench. Derrick Favors finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Enes Kanter finished with 12 points and 6 rebounds off the bench. Richard Jefferson scored 11 points.
Key Notes: Kenyon Martin and Andrea Bargnani remain out due to injury. Amar’e Stoudemire didn’t play due to sore knees, he should be available on Wednesday. Tim Hardaway Jr. injured his ankle towards the end of the 4th quarter and was in a wheelchair after the game. Luckily, the diagnosis is a sprained ankle.