It's not that we don't pay attention to it, but I think you hopefully can learn from it and become more competitive. —Jazz coach Quin Snyder
NEW YORK — For three quarters, the Utah Jazz’s offense was clicking in Madison Square Garden.
At one point, Utah even led the New York Knicks by as many as a dozen.
But a fourth-quarter meltdown, in which the grittier Knicks were tougher and outscored them 29-19, denied the squad from collecting its first road win Wednesday night as New York pulled out a close 106-101 game.
“We’re out there playing hard,” said Jazz guard Rodney Hood, who posted 15 of his 30 points in the third quarter. “That’s what we’re about. Sometimes they don’t equal wins, but down the line we will. We just need to put it together for 48 minutes.”
The Jazz (6-9) have lost six of their last seven games and now face the hardest December schedule in the NBA, according to ESPN’s NBA Basketball Power Index.
Utah’s next three games will be played on the road at Brooklyn on Friday, at Orlando on Saturday, then in Philly on Monday.
Then to make matters worse, star center Rudy Gobert continues his battle with a right tibia contusion for a minimum of four weeks while Joe Johnson is still dealing with right wrist tendon instability and is out for at least two more weeks as well. Both guys are with the team on the road trip.
“For me, you look at it and think, ‘How are you playing on the road?’” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “I think for us, because we’re a new, young team, that the crowd at home helps us and that’s not there on the road so there’s stuff to look at and it’s harder to win on the road.
“It’s not that we don’t pay attention to it, but I think you hopefully can learn from it and become more competitive.”
Rookie Donovan Mitchell is still learning when and where to pick his spots while Hood is flourishing offensively in his new role off the bench, but the Jazz have to get better on defense.
Many times, the team was late on defensive rotation, which opened up the lanes for Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis to attack the basket with ease. While Brooklyn presents a different challenge, the defensive principles still need to be intact — especially in transition.
For now, the team isn’t thinking too deep off into winning on the road but more so winning in general.
“I don’t think we really pay attention to that type of stuff, we just take it game by game,” Mitchell said. “We base our performances, off obviously we want the win, but we’ve improved so much from the Minnesota game and that’s something to build off of."
The Nets will be without their breakout star D’Angelo Russell, who coincidentally suffered his left knee contusion at Vivint Arena Nov. 11 in Utah’s last win. There is still no timetable on his return, but Snyder still sees the positives within the Nets lineup and their ability to drive the ball at a rapid pace.
“They have an identity,” Snyder said. “I think that’s a really important thing for a team, especially a young team, to know kind of what you are and what you want to accomplish. I think that makes a team get better and they’ve done that.”
Even with all the odds stacked against Utah, veteran forward Jonas Jerebko has faith in his team. The 30-year-old has entered the rotation with the injuries to Gobert and Johnson. He's hit six total 3-pointers in the last two games, while logging 25 minutes against Minnesota and 22 minutes in New York.
This critical stretch will either make or break the team in the long run.
ESPN’s latest BPI gives Utah a 13 percent chance to reach the playoffs coupled with the second-hardest remaining schedule. Utah needs to get it together as soon as possible.
“It’s going to click here soon,” Jerebko said. “I’ve been in this league for a while and I’ve been on good teams and bad teams, but this is a good team.
“We’ve just got to get over that little hump,” he added. “Maybe get a couple balls go our way and win a couple games on the road and I think we’ll be right back where we need to be.”