The Knicks got a huge win before they head home to New York by beating the Jazz 90-83 for their first win in Utah in eight years. The win kept the Knicks in first place in the Atlantic Divison, as the Brooklyn Nets blew out the Detroit Pistons in Detroit and a loss by the Knicks would have meant a virtual tie with the Nets.
The game started out ugly, but morphed into an entertaining second half, as the Knicks became much more efficient with their offense. For a team fighting for their playoff lives, the Jazz put forth a pitiful effort. They had 17 turnovers, which is what kept the Knicks in the game in the first half when they were struggling on offense, and their shot selection was horrific. However, nothing should be taken away from the Knicks because they showed incredible grit and toughness.
The Jazz went on an 8-0 run at the end of the second quarter to take a 44-42 lead into halftime and it looked like a repeat from the Portland game . However, Pablo Prigioni and Chris Copeland ran some great pick-and-rolls to get the Knicks into rhythm at the start of the thrid quarter. Prigioni made his case for more playing time and hopefully Woodson took notice after he has left him out of the rotation lately for reasons unknown.
The Knicks led 66-63 after three quarters in large part due to J.R. Smith getting to the foul line. Smith had another bad shooting game (5-13), but got to the foul line six times in the third quarter. This allowed him to finish with an efficient 20 points on those 13 shots. It was good to see him not settle for jump shots and take the ball to the rim when he was struggling shooting.
The Knicks never trailed in the fourth quarter and never trailed in the quarter. Raymond Felton was excellent, as he scored nine of his 19 points in the fourth. He hit some huge momentum shots, including a three-pointer to put the Knicks up 75-69 with 8:10 remaining and a long two-point jumper to put the Knicks up eight with 5;20 remaining. The cloest the Jazz came after that was when they got the lead down to 84-81 with 3:13 remaining. After a terrible turnover by Smith, Mo Williams missed a jumper and Smith came back and hit a jumper to ice the game,
Make fun of their ages all you want, but Kurt Thomas and Kenyon Martin were absolute men among boys out there. They outplayed a much more talented Utah front court in Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. Martin had nine rebounds in 21 rebounds and gave excellent defense and energy again. Thomas was simply incredible. After there were rumors that his season was over due to a stress fracture in his foot, Thomas came out and played his best game of the season. His low post defense on Jefferson was huge, especially in the fourth quarter. Thomas did a little bit of everything as he scored six points, had three blocks, three rebounds and two assists. You can not see his true value to the win in those stats though. The Knicks won this game on defense and Martin and Thomas contributed greatly to that.
The Knicks now have an opportunity to go home and they have three winnable games in a row against Orlando and two against Toronto. A four game winning streak and getting healthy would help erase the tough west coast trip.