Led by a near-triple-double by Julius Randle (30 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists) and a 23-point outing by Austin Rivers, the New York Knicks rallied back from an 18-point deficit to defeat the Utah Jazz 112-100 three weeks ago at Madison Square Garden.
The two teams have since gone in different directions, literally and figuratively.
The Jazz haven’t lost since then, winning an NBA-season-high eight consecutive games entering Tuesday’s game against the Knicks in Salt Lake City.
“When we’re going on both ends, we’re a tough team to play against,” Jazz guard Joe Ingles said.
The Knicks, meanwhile, went on a five-game losing streak and have now lost seven of 10 games overall.
Coincidentally, both teams’ most-recent victories came against Golden State. Utah stormed to a 40-point lead before settling on a 127-108 win Saturday. New York beat the Warriors 119-104 Thursday to begin a four-game Western road trip.
This is the final outing of the Knicks’ swing. Over the weekend, they stumbled in Sacramento (103-94) and in Portland (116-113). To its credit, New York made a game of it Sunday, rallying from 25 behind to only lose to the Blazers by three.
“Quite a big hole,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We expended so much energy trying to get out of it and at the end we fell short.”
It was the third game in four nights on the West Coast for New York, while the Blazers hadn’t played in a week after two games were postponed due to COVID-19 precautions.
“It usually balances out over the course of the year,” Thibodeau said. “We want to have the mental toughness to get through whatever we’re facing. This was the situation (where) they had been off a long time. You deal with what’s in front of you. We know we have to bring more to a game to win.”
As has been the case since botching that big lead in New York, the Jazz did about everything right against Golden State. They scored the first 14 points of the game and ended the first half on a 14-1 run to go up 77-47. Utah added another 10-point cushion to that lead before letting reserves play most of the fourth quarter.
The Jazz liked that they defended well together and dished out 28 assists, a good sign of team unity on offense.
“It’s something we really love doing,” Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said. “That’s what’s special about this team. We love to make the extra pass.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder appreciates how they play as a cohesive group on defense, too. Though Utah has been clicking on offense — especially from 3-point range — that defense has fueled the overall turnaround.
“We want to defend collectively,” Snyder said. “I think our guys are seeing it collectively. It’s not one guy’s job. Every guy has to do the job.”
–Field Level Media