Monday’s matchup featured two teams with different goals and perspectives as the NBA season slowly but surely concludes. The Utah Jazz are trying to build some momentum and establish identity entering the offseason, while the New York Knicks are furiously battling for a final postseason berth. The latter were able to take care of business, earning a 92-83 victory over Utah.
Both teams played Sunday, followed by travel to Salt Lake City. The energy level was reflective of this early on as the pace was a bit slow and choppy for the two squads. Utah managed to earn the early first quarter lead, while New York had the edge in the second. It was the third quarter that broke things open. Behind a series of 3-pointers, the Knicks exerted some urgency — enough to sustain the lead for the game’s duration.
At the end of the night, New York kept pace with the No. 8 seed Atlanta Hawks — their main competition for the postseason. Conversely, Utah maintained its status as the team with the fourth-worst record, with an eye toward May’s NBA draft lottery.
Stepping up: While the Knicks have had a disappointing campaign, their recent stretch has changed their fortunes a bit. In the struggling Eastern Conference, New York’s 32-43 record has it on the precipice of the playoffs. Carmelo Anthony has been the catalyst for the team's push, as evidenced by his performance versus the Jazz.
Anthony had an efficient, dominant effort that was instrumental in the game’s outcome. As he is apt to do, he was exhibiting a full offensive repertoire. He connected on 11-of 19-shots, with a mix of inside moves and perimeter prowess. Anthony drained four of his seven 3-point attempts. His aggressive play earned him eight trips to the free-throw line, where he was perfect. Anthony finished with 34 points, eight rebounds and three steals.
Odds and ends:
• Anthony did not do it by himself, as he had ample support. Center Tyson Chandler had 15 points and nine rebounds. Guards J.R. Smith (13 points) and Raymond Felton (12) chipped in a combined 25 points, and rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. added 10.
• Behind Alec Burks’ 17 points and Enes Kanter’s 12, Utah’s bench outscored their counterparts 31-16.
• The ball movement for both teams was lacking a bit, resulting in a rather low-scoring affair. The Knicks had just 18 assists while the Jazz managed just 15.
• Former All-Star big man Amar’e Stoudamire, who has long battled injury issues, sat out the game in a pre-emptive move for New York’s final stretch.
David Smith provides instant analysis for the Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.