December 2017
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Knicks Seek to Start New Win Streak Against Short-Handed Jazz Squad

New York can shake off a bad loss to the Cavs by beating up on the hurt Jazz on a Wednesday night affair at the Garden.

When the season started, the retooled Utah Jazz (6-8) had the makings to be an exciting team to watch. They acquired a still prime (how is he only 26?!) point guard in Ricky Rubio and drafted well by selecting the Louisville product Donovan Mitchell. Yet, the Jazz come into the Garden tonight depleted and off to a slow start.

The Knicks’ (7-6) season thus far has been a series of streaks. The same can be said of the Jazz. They come to the Big Apple  with a losing away record of 0–4. Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert will now be out for at least a month. They’re coming off a loss to Kristaps Porzingis’ draft counterpart, and constant comparison, Karl-Anthony Towns, in which he shot 10-for-15. The lack of depth in Utah’s frontcourt bodes well for the Knicks’ tandem of Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn, two beasts on the boards.

Enes Kanter has been a double-double machine this season, expectedly so if you’d looked at his production in Oklahoma City and jaw-dropping Per 36 numbers. Without Gobert to protect the rim, this is a game where Kanter could easily score a quiet 16–18 points inside. One would think by having Gordon Hayward gone and a pass-first guard such as a Rubio, Derrick Favors would take the leap this year. Yet, his usage is down in the season’s early games. Favors is only shooting an addition 1.1 field-goals per game and his usage percentage has declined by 1.7 since last year, per Basketball-Reference. Watching a little bit of the game versus Minnesota the other night, I noticed that Favors as very slow closing out on the mid-range shooting of Towns and Taj Gibson. This is one of those games where the Knicks bigs have the upper-hand in every aspect, considering all of them can pull-up from beyond the paint.


Frank Ntilikina vs. Donovan Mitchell

It’s hard to say who the rook will be covering night to night because three-guard lineups do a lot of switching. However, Utah’s Mitchell has been one of the more consistent rookies in this draft class and I don’t know if we (NBA Twitter at-large) are discussing this enough.

For the month, Donovan Mitchell is averaging 20 points per game and shooting an average of 18 field-goals attempts per game. He’s the focal point of Utah’s offense and he’s seemingly handling it in stride as a rookie. While it’s certain that Courtney Lee will be on him most of the game, I’d love to see Frank match up with one of his peers who excels at creating his own shot and moves well without the ball. Mitchell has the quick first start that we relish in point guards, but Frank’s instinct to pick a pocket cannot be denied. He might have been able to drive past Trevor Ariza (twice in fact) but I don’t see that being difficult with Frank on him.

Frank has been a defensive star as his minutes have increased. The rook is third in the league for steals per game (first among all rookies, Mitchell is third). Ideally, this trend will begin to pivot to his offense. Through November, he’s averaging 23 minutes of floor time, but he’s only taking five shots per contest. He has yet to reach double-digit attempts. Against a meh Utah front court, this is a game Frank would do well driving to the cup. He hesitates at times with his shot selection when aggression should be his response. (A minor thing to nitpick when his passing, defense, and occasionally shooting stroke, all look beyond 19 years young.)

After a hot start, we knew KP would cool down. Although, this is a game where he can easily get back on the rails. Even though the Jazz is one of the better defensive teams as a whole, they lack depth in perimeter defense. Their opponents shoot 39 percent from beyond the arc. And we know KP loves to pull up from the top of the key. Not only should KP feast tonight from outside, but this is also an opportunity for him to continue to get to the line. He’s up to 89 attempts already, after shooting a total of 262 last season. Anticipate some frustration fouls from Favors and company trying to contain the Unicorn.

What’s different now than from previous seasons in bounce back losses is these Knicks have that dog in them. In a series of streaks, the losses don’t always come because of being outplayed or opponents necessarily being better. It’s more of the Knicks stepping on their own feet and silly mental mistakes. Cut down on those and protecting the Mecca suddenly isn’t such a tall task for our lively Knickerbockers.

James Woodruff

Fan of Knicks/Cuse hoops, Panera sandwiches, Avion Tequila, and a good whiskey. Invested in improving your 40 time.

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