SALT LAKE CITY — At the time, it didn’t seem like a big deal, but a timeout by New York coach Mike Woodson right before the end of the first half might have keyed the Knicks’ second-half comeback win over the Utah Jazz Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
Alec Burks was at the free-throw line with a chance to give the Jazz a five-point halftime lead. He missed the first shot, however, and as the Jazz acted confused about a substitution before the second shot, Woodson suddenly called a timeout.
There were only 2.9 seconds left, but after Burks sank the second foul shot, Carmelo Anthony threw a length-of-the-court pass to J.R. Smith, who fired in a 3-point shot from the right corner to cut the Jazz halftime lead to a point, 49-48.
That momentum carried over in the third quarter when the Knicks outscored the Jazz 31-20 and cruised home in the fourth.
“Woody called that 20-second timeout and drew the play up and when I saw Melo throw it over my head, I wanted to get a little further down court, so I let the ball bounce and then it was just catch and shoot,’’ said Smith. “It was great for us. We were down like 10 points and to fight back and be down one going into the half, that did a great deal for us.’’
The Knicks were just 1-32 this year when trailing at halftime, but the one-point deficit didn’t seem like much to Woodson after his team trailed 40-30 midway through the half.
“When you’re down only one on the road, you’ve got to feel good about yourself,’’ he said. “J.R. hits the big 3 right before the half that gave us a little momentum. Then we got that spurt in the third that we needed to kind of tip it over the top for us.’’
That spurt in the third quarter happened in a 57-second span when the Knicks scored nine straight points on three 3-pointers. First Smith, then Tim Hardaway Jr., and finally Anthony sank 3s.
Just like that, the Knicks led by six.
Although the Jazz came back to tie the game briefly at 67, the Knicks went on a 17-2 run over the next six minutes to put the game away for good.
“We were right there and then (New York) went on a 12-2 run to finish the quarter and that was the difference in the game,’’ said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin.
Anthony, the second-leading scorer in the NBA at 28.0 ppg, proved to be too much for the Jazz as he led the Knicks with 34 points on 11 of 19 from the field, and 8 of 8 from the line.
The win was huge for the Knicks, who are chasing Atlanta for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They came in one game behind and stayed a game back after the Hawks came from behind to defeat Philadelphia Monday night.
“We’re trying to dig ourselves out and our guys are fighting. I like that,’’ said Woodson of his team that has won 11 of its last 14 games to get back in playoff contention.
This marked the sixth straight win for the Knicks over the Jazz, who haven’t beaten New York since 2011.