After a moral defeat against a shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies, the New York Knicks will now turn their attention to the 18–26 Utah Jazz, who currently sit in 10th place in the Western Conference.
In uninspiring fashion, the Knicks were swept aside by the Grizzlies 105–99, with Memphis leading by 18 at a point in the game, and a fake comeback failed. A lack of bench production outside of Michael Beasley and Tim Hardaway Jr., coupled with a an inefficient game from Kristaps Porzingis crippled the Knicks as their road woes continued. The Knicks, in an opportunity to break their streak, have now not won back-to-back road games since December 2016.
The Jazz, on the other hand, were able to take care of business easily when they came up against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday as they managed to earn their 18th win of the season. Shooting an incredibly efficient 56.8 percent from the field and 41.4 percent from three-point range, all cogs seemed to be working for a productive Jazz side on the night. Rookie Donovan Mitchell led the way for the Jazz. The Louisville product poured in 34 points on 14-of-19 shooting (73.7 percent), while also contributing three assists and three steals.
Rudy Gobert and Alec Burks sat for the game against the Kings, however, Gobert is listed as probable for tonight’s matchup, per the Utah Jazz. According to BetOnline.ag, the Jazz are favored at -240 tonight in Salt Lake City.
Here is what to watch for when the Knicks come up against the Jazz on Friday night.
Lance Thomas’ minutes
The double-edged sword that comes with Lance Thomas is, despite being a hustle player who is a decent rotation defender, his offensive production is slim to none. With Hardaway Jr. now back in the mix, and proving to be a useful asset, as well as Beasley being a strong scoring presence off the bench, Thomas might find himself facing a minutes deduction if the Knicks offense doesn’t pick up over the course of this West Coast swing.
Courtney Lee versus Donovan Mitchell
Averaging close to 20 points per game in his rookie season, Mitchell is the Jazz’s biggest threat. As the Knicks’ best starting perimeter defender, Lee will not only be tasked with containing Mitchell but also continuing his strong offensive production against Mitchell, who has proven to be a tricky defender midway into his rookie campaign. Fourth on the team in Defensive Win Shares with 1.3, Lee has made a career out of being a solid defender, but in this case, head coach Jeff Hornacek might call on Frank Ntilikina to possibly provide backup in hopes of containing fellow neophyte Mitchell.
Trey Burke’s opportunity
After a rough shooting game for Jarrett Jack (1-of-5) and Ntilikina (0-for-6) against the Grizzlies, both might see a reduction in minutes that was initially anticipated when Burke was called up from the G League. Making his debut against the Brooklyn Nets and looking productive in the short time he saw on the court, Burke might find himself with more minutes to work with as New York plays five games over eight days.
The Knicks will be hoping to get back in the win column when they come up against the Jazz on Friday, January 19, at 10:30 p.m. EST.