Jazz will have hands full vs. upstart Knicks
The Utah Jazz's consistency issues revealed themselves in a blowout loss to the previously struggling Brooklyn Nets Tuesday night. The Jazz won't have much time to refocus for a New York Knicks' squad that's already indicated it won't let up for 48 minutes.
Utah will attempt to bounce back from its worst loss in more than two years Wednesday night, when the Jazz continue a seven-game road trip by visiting the Knicks.
The Jazz will be completing a back-to-back set after absorbing a 130-96 loss to the Nets. The Knicks moved over .500 on Monday night, when they overcame a 15-point third-quarter deficit to edge the host Atlanta Hawks, 113-108.
The loss Tuesday was the most lopsided for Utah since a 118-68 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 14, 2018. Such a defeat would have been jarring enough for the Jazz if it was delivered by the optimal version of the Nets. But Brooklyn entered Tuesday at 3-4 while committing 16.6 turnovers per game and surrendering 14.6 offensive rebounds per game, the most in the league.
In addition, Kevin Durant was out due to coronavirus protocols and first-year head coach Steve Nash turned over Brooklyn's lineup by surrounding Kyrie Irving with four new starters. But the Jazz didn't reach double-digits in points until there was 1:07 left in the first, trailed 35-14 at the end of the quarter and never got closer than 16 points over the final three periods.
Afterward, Utah guard Donovan Mitchell said he hoped the loss would jolt the Jazz, whose first six games included two wins by at least 20 points, two victories by fewer than six points and an 11-point loss to the Phoenix Suns.
"We just didn't do much right tonight and that can't happen -- it's been the story all season," Mitchell said. "What are we, 4-3? Whatever it is, that's indicative of our play. We have two-and-a-half good games, then three bad ones. So it's like we've got to figure out who we want to be right now."
It's taken the Knicks -- whose 4-3 record marks the first time they've been over .500 since a 126-107 win over the Atlanta Hawks in the 2018-19 season opener on Oct. 17, 2018 -- just seven games to establish a scrappy, defensively minded identity under first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau.
New York, which hasn't made the playoffs since the spring of 2013-14, is allowing just 105.1 points per game, the sixth-lowest figure in the league, and limiting opponents to 43.3 percent shooting, the third-lowest mark. Last season, the Knicks allowed 112.3 points per game, tied for 12th-most in the NBA, and allowed foes to shoot 46.3 percent, tied for the 14th-highest rate.
In addition to the comeback win over the Hawks, the Knicks have also upset a pair of perennial contenders, the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers. New York also led the Pacers at halftime of a 121-107 loss in the season opener Dec. 23 and was tied with the Toronto Raptors at halftime of a 100-83 loss on New Year's Eve.
"It starts with 'Thibs' and then it goes all the way down," second-year guard RJ Barrett said Monday night. "Everybody that comes in the game plays hard, plays with an edge."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 6, 2021