New York Knicks look to avoid losing streak against Utah Jazz

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15: Tim Hardaway Jr.
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15: Tim Hardaway Jr. /

The New York Knicks play the third game of a seven-game road trip Friday. They’ll aim to avoid a loss against Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz.

This Friday, the 20-25 New York Knicks, currently seeded 10th in the Eastern Conference, will face off against the 18-26 Utah Jazz, which are 10th in the West. It will be New York and Utah’s second meeting of the season, with this game being played at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City.

This is the Knicks’ third stop on a seven-game road trip, as well as the second stop on a six-game West Coast trip. After Wednesday night’s tough 105-99 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Knicks will have an opportunity to bounce back with a win in Utah.

Most importantly: New York can avoid going on a losing streak early in its road trip.

In the first encounter between these teams, the Knicks were able to grab a win at home, 106-101. New York locked in defensively and held the Jazz to 19 points in the fourth quarter. It limited Donovan Mitchell to two points in the second half.

For Utah, Rodney Hood had a game-high 30 points off the bench in the loss.

This matchup is interesting because of the striking similarities between these two teams. Both lost big parts of their offense during the offseason in Carmelo Anthony and Gordon Hayward.

Both teams are defensive-minded. Both teams have star big men who have a presence on both ends of the floor. Both teams have struggled offensively and defensively due to a combination of injuries and the fight to figure out how to run an efficient system.

The two high picks in last year’s draft, Donovan Mitchell and Frank Ntilikina, have become beloved figures. Mitchell’s emergence has many around the league predicting that he’ll be named the Rookie of the Year.

He’s averaging 19.3 points per game. Last month against the New Orleans Pelicans, he poured in a career-high and Jazz rookie record 41 points.

Even as a rookie, Mitchell has become Utah’s offensive focal point.

Mitchell’s rookie counterpart on the Knicks is Ntilikina. The French Prince already a fan favorite in New York, and for good reason. He’s a breath of fresh air at the point guard position.

Monday night against the Brooklyn Nets, Ntilkina completed his first NBA double-double, and was just three rebounds shy of a triple-double.

He finished the win over Brooklyn with 10 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds, two blocks, and a steal.

The Jazz have been trying to find their offense with Hayward out of the mix. It doesn’t help that star center Rudy Gobert suffered a knee injury that will leave him out for at least another week.

Utah is also hurt by the fact that starting forward Thabo Sefolosha is out for the season after undergoing successful knee surgery.

Now that Tim Hardaway Jr. is back in the lineup, the Knicks should be able to capitalize on this opportunity. Hardaway’s offensive skill set is vital to his team because it helps spread the floor and create penetration.

Hardaway’s return also takes pressure off of Kristaps Porzingis, whose idea of struggling is averaging 23.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, and a league-leading 2.4 blocks per game.

In the last game against Utah, Hardaway had a clutch performance, scoring 26 points and making a three with 32.5 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter.

For as much success as the Knicks have experienced at Madison Square Garden, they’ve played miserably on the road with a 5-16 record. That’s troubling news considering they’re facing a Jazz team that has a 13-8 record at home.

Even though Utah has lost seven of its last 10 games, it gained momentum going into Friday’s clash with the Knicks by defeating the Sacramento Kings. Mitchell dominated, shooting 14-of-19 for the night and finishing with 34 points.

Rodney Hood contributed 25 points off the bench.

The Knicks have beaten the Jazz before, but this time, they’re playing in enemy territory. With so many injuries to Utah’s roster, a road win isn’t as farfetched as it usually seems.

The keys to victory will be containing Mitchell and Hood. With Gobert sidelined, the Knicks have a height advantage down low with so many big men on their team.

The Knicks should get a win to help set the tone for the rest of their West Coast road trip. They’re going to need to gain some momentum, because their next game on Sunday is against their old rival: The Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers want to capitalize on this revenge game after losing to the Knicks in overtime at Madison Square Garden in December.

Must Read: Five players to consider trading for

Thankfully, the New York Knicks can build momentum towards surviving this road trip by defeating a shorthanded Utah Jazz team.