SALT LAKE CITY — With Rudy Gobert returning from his 15-game absence after suffering a knee injury, Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder decided to shake up the lineup against New York on Friday.
Snyder started Rodney Hood in the place of Joe Ingles, along with Gobert, Derrick Favors, Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio.
“With Rudy coming back, my feeling is that there is an adjustment there anyway,” Snyder said of the decision. “I think we haven’t started games as well as I hoped we can. It’s nothing magical.”
Even with the change, the Jazz displayed a valiant effort down the end, pulling within two in the fourth, but fell to the New York Knicks for the second time this season, 117-115.
Again, Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. burned the Jazz.
In Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15, he went off for a team-high 26 points, plus the game-winning 3-pointer, then he lit up the Jazz with 31 points off six 3-pointers this time at Vivint Arena.
Utah entered the game expecting to keep Gobert’s minutes right around 24, but he didn’t seem fatigued at all in 30 minutes. He put up 23 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks in his first game since Dec. 15 in Boston, where he went down with a sprained PCL in his left knee and a bone bruise in his tibia.
“He’s long,” Hornacek said of Gobert. “If you think you’re going to just stand in front of him he’s going to reach over the top of you, so we’ve got to get him away from the basket.”
New York shot connected on 49.4 percent of their shots while knocking down 55 percent of their 3’s. Utah hit just 46.2 percent of its shots and 35.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Rodney Hood finished with 18 points and five rebounds as a starter, while Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio both finished with 17 points. Mitchell couldn’t find a groove until the fourth, as he shot 7-for-21 from the field with five turnovers, but did dish out seven assists while grabbing four rebounds on the night he received his Western Conference Rookie of the Month award for December.
The new Jazz starting lineup didn’t help much in the beginning as the team trailed 16-9 to start the game but found a groove after a 10-0 spark from Raul Neto and the second unit to lead 25-22 entering the second quarter.
Hardaway Jr. was aggressive with seven early points, but so was Hood with seven points on 3-for-5 shooting. Mitchell tried to set the tone defensively with a huge chase down block on Courtney Lee at 7:55 in the first.
Gobert continued to find his groove in the second quarter as his teammates were routinely looking for him through pick and rolls. He would end the half with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Derrick Favors’ two-handed jam gave the Jazz a 10-point edge at 3:29 as Hood posted 14 points, including a 3-pointer near the end of the half. Utah shot 50 percent at the half and 38.5 percent from beyond the arc to lead 55-49 at halftime.
New York capitalized on Utah’s mistakes to outscore the Jazz 36-23 in the third – plus allowed an 8-0 from Hardaway Jr. in the final minute capped by a 3-pointer to beat the buzzer.
In the fourth, the Knicks would pull away despite a push from Mitchell.
Mitchell’s 3-point bank shot capped a 13-6 run for the Jazz to start the fourth, tying the game 91-91, but the Knicks made the right plays down the stretch.
Former Jazzman Trey Burke logged 15 valuable minutes for the Knicks, scoring seven points on 3-for-4 shooting. Courtney Lee and Kristaps Porzingis both posted 18 apiece for New York.
Utah (18-27) will look to get back on track Saturday at home against the Los Angeles Clippers.