By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Jazz | Madison Square Garden
When: Friday | 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (22-40): The Knicks pulled out a much needed win in Minnesota on Wednesday to snap a seven-game losing streak. New York finished the first half one point shy of its season high for output in a half, and rather than letting the lead slip away, Carmelo Anthony and Co. turned up the intensity down the stretch. In doing so, Raymond Felton (18 points, eight assists, four steals) took control of the offense and set the tone with his effort on D. Six players reached double figures in scoring and after the game the locker room was optimistic that a win over a tough Western Conference opponent could propel them to make a run toward the playoffs.
Utah (21-40): After losing franchise cornerstone big men Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson in free agency, it's been a year of discovery in Salt Lake City. Armed with two first round picks and a handful of young players with promise, coach Ty Corbin has been tasked with developing the talent at hand while the organization evaluates which pieces to build around going forward. For the most part, preseason expecations have materialized, with the team struggling both offensively (23rd in the NBA) and defensively (28th). On the bright side, rookie Trey Burke has looked like a capable starting point guard, off guard Alec Burks has shown promise in his third season, and soon-to-be restricted free agent Gordon Hayward has shown glimpses of being a go-to guy on the wing.
The Numbers Game
The Knicks' starting lineup the past two games (Felton-J.R. Smith-Anthony-Amar'e Stoudemire-Tyson Chandler) has been successful in 64 minutes on the floor together this year. The group has a 110.7 offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) and a 105.4 defensive rating, good for a +5.4 net rating.
Matchup to Watch
Carmelo Anthony vs. Gordon Hayward
Two of the more dynamic forwards in the NBA, Anthony and Hayward are both capable of doing it all, but benefit greatly from strong point guard play to make their lives easier. Hayward has been thrust into the a leadership role and while his efficiency has suffered, he's shown his versatility. A career 37-percent three-point shooter, he's continued to create for his teammates (5.1 assists per game) and hit the boards (5.5 rebounds) for this young team. He can put the ball on the floor and defend, as well, meaning Melo will have his hands full on both ends.
What to Look For
Coach Mike Woodson has gone to a new starting lineup for the last two games and is likely to stick with it after the win in Minnesota. Stoudemire's efficiency has been off the charts over the past three games, averaging 18 points on 65 percent shooting. Chandler has quietly gone on a rebounding tear, pulling down 14 boards per game to go with 11 points over the last 11 games. If Felton can carry his strong point play forward, expect the Knicks' offense to keep humming... The Jazz don't stand out in any area, but with Derrick Favors patrolling the lane and 7-1 center Rudy Gobert coming off the bench, they are able to contest shots at the rim.