Knicks Look to Bounce Back in Utah’s Lone Trip to MSG
1. On Monday night at MSG, the home crowd was treated to an Eastern Conference battle. Through three quarters, the Knicks were poised to notch their second win over the Cavaliers in 16 days. New York put together two 18-2 runs in the contest and led by as much as 23 points. LeBron James and Cleveland answered back in the fourth frame with an 18-9 spurt and a Channing Frye long bomb that tied the game at 97-97 at the 2:16 mark. James delivered the dagger a minute later by dinking a step-back 3-pointer to provide the road team with the lead. Kyle Korver scored 19 in the fourth quarter and James dished out eight assists in the 104-101 win.
2. New York should feel confident despite the defeat to the Cavaliers on Monday. The orange and blue owned the defending Eastern Conference champs for three quarters in the second matchup after beating them by 19 in Cleveland on October 29. Tim Hardaway Jr. has combined to score 62 points, grab 14 rebounds, and dish out 13 assists in the two meetings. Enes Kanter has hauled down a combined 28 boards. Currently, New York sits in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings with a 7-6 overall record and 6-3 at MSG heading into tonight’s home matchup against Utah.
3. With a glance at the NBA leader board, you will find Knicks rookie Frank Ntilikina. The 19-year old ranks No. 3 in the league in steals per game, fresh off of Monday’s performance where he snatched an eye-opening six steals in only 24 minutes of court time. When examining his numbers per 100 possessions, Ntilikina would top the list at No. 1 in the NBA and he’s second in deflections per 36 minutes.
4. There are several connections between the two teams in tonight’s tilt. Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek spent seven seasons in Utah as a player and he appeared in two NBA Finals. Hornacek’s number 14 was retired by the Jazz in 2002. New York’s center, Enes Kanter was drafted third overall by Utah in 2011. Additionally, Willy Hernangomez and Utah starting point guard, Ricky Rubio joined forces on the bronze-winning Spanish national team this past summer. The Jazz walk into MSG tonight with a 6-8 record after a loss to the Timberwolves on Monday. During the offseason, Utah traded for Rubio and drafted Donovan Mitchell to counter the loss of All-Star Gordon Hayward and point guard George Hill. Even with a sub.500 record, the Jazz rank No. 6 in defensive rating, No. 2 in steals, and No. 3 in blocks.
5. Prior to Monday’s contest, Hornacek placed Ron Baker and Joakim Noah on the inactive list. Noah is available to participate in game action but Baker is doubtful with a sprained left shoulder. Utah is dealing with significant injury issues. Joe Johnson has been sidelined since October 31 with tendon instability in his wrist and is out tonight. The most glaring injury for the Jazz is the loss of center Rudy Gobert. The defensive ace will miss four weeks due to a bone bruise.