The third-to-last day of 2018 saw the Utah Jazz up 37 at the half against the New York Knicks. Think of 2019 as the new boss being a lot like the old boss: the Jazz again bossed the Knicks, this time in New York, 137-116. Last night the Knicks only trailed by 27 at the half. Raise that one to the rafters.
It wasn’t New York’s night from the start.
Both teams got off to good starts, but the Jazz were making threes and missing literally like no twos, hitting 13 of their first 14 within the arc. What do you do against that?
The Knicks were missing half the rotation: Dennis Smith Jr., Noah Vonleh, Allonzo Trier, Kadeem Allen and Frank Ntilikina were all out. Signs you’re missing three of your four points guards: the Knicks lost the opening tip, so they got the ball to start the 2nd. Lance Thomas and Mario Hezonja couldn’t deal with pressure on the inbounds from Jae Crowder and turned it over. Later in the quarter Hezonja dribbled around a Robinson pick and the big man rolled to the rim, open for an alley-oop, only he never saw it develop, then used a second Mitchell pick to drive and miss a lefty lay-up. Eventually these two would connect.
You know who’s like the only guy all year who’s looked comfortable shooting threes over a closing-out Robinson? Kyle Korver. That creep can roll, man. A Korver three a third of the way through the game put the Jazz up 23. That means they were on pace to win by 69.
By halftime the Knicks had only attempted two more free throws than you did, and the score was (for me) an OCD-satisfying palindrome, 74-47.
So many low moments in this game. One history will forget but I won’t: trailing 81-50, having just come out of a timeout, the Knicks had Damyean Dotson inbound to Emmanual Mudiay. The pass led the point guard too far, forcing a backcourt violation. By way of contrast, midway through the third the Jazz were flirting with 100 points and had still only missed three two-pointers all night. All. Night.
By way of “Wow!” the boo birds held off until late in the third. David Fizdale threw some bread and circuses their way in the fourth, trotting out a supersized and never-before-seen lineup of Robinson, Luke Kornet, Henry Ellenson, Knox and Point Dot. On a night the Knicks missed a month’s worth of fast breaks, your lone highlight:
The Jazz have better players. They have a better coach. They have nearly three times as many road wins as the Knicks do home wins; Utah’s won more road games since mid-January than the Knicks have won at MSG all season. Sunrise. Sunset.
- Amidst the carnage, rookie American teenager Kevin Knox played a career-high 47 minutes. He shot well and rebounded well. Even flashed some annoyance late when he was open in the corner on a break and Ellenson pushed all the way to the rim only to miss.
- A season-high 23 in just 26 minutes for Mario Hezonja. Dotson also broke 20+ points. My computer is nearly dead and I feel similarly, so I’m not gonna try to figure out the last time the Knicks had three players score 20+ and lose this badly. Seems like one of those facts you hope stretches back 20 years but in truth happened like three months ago. Why you gotta be such a downer, history?
- Utah made 20 of 42 three-pointers, tying a season high for makes. Both those numbers are the products of consecutive integers (4x5, 6x7). Meanwhile the Knicks hit 13 of 31, a palindrome. If you find those kinds of numerical patterns as soul-soothing as I do, you and my OCD can be friends. I was legit bugging in the last minute that either team would take another three and warp those figures.
- I dared to laugh at Knox after he missed a dunk on the break. The fiancee, rushing to his defense, told me to stop hating the youth and being a“fortysomething mid-life-crisis-having grouchy bitch.”
- The Jazz are unusual in that I sincerely like all their starters. I don’t merely not-hate them. I like them. All of them. Rudy Gobert. Derrick Favors. Joe Ingles. Donovan Mitchell. Ricky Rubio. I’m down with all of them. This continues a long history of oddly intense affection for Utah players. Mark Eaton. Jeff Hornacek. Andrei Kirilenko. Pre-Knick Enes Kanter. What is that? I couldn’t stand Karl Malone. I respected John Stockton, but I never liked him. I never trusted him.
- The carefree comfort with which Ellenson went at Kyle Korver off the dribble is proof positive every single field of human endeavor should be as diversified and open to all as possible.
- Grayson Allen looks like if Dylan McDermott and Ted Cruz had a baby who grew up to be the literal face of entitlement. In some ways, Allen reminds me of Bill Laimbeer. Trivia for ya: how many All-Star games did Laimbeer make? No peeking!
- In 1999 the Knicks lost out on a lottery talent with local flavor, passing on Ron Artest in favor of Frenchman Frederic Weis. In 2017 the Knicks lost out on a lottery talent with local flavor, passing on Donovan Mitchell in favor of Frenchman Frank Ntilikina. Luckily I don’t think there are any local or French lottery prospects this year.
- With the win Utah improved to 49-49 all-time against New York.
- I’ve watched this team close enough long enough to accept that while I dream of a title, I’m here for the journey, not the destination. That’s what sparks my joy. In that vein, if Rubio is the Knicks’ starting point guard next March, I’m cool with it. I enjoy his passing, his defensive intensity and his beard.
- OAKAAKUYOAK John Wallace was at the game, Rochester’s finest by way of Greece-Athena High School. Your secret unspoken critical moment in Knick history where they screwed up the present and future: the 1996 draft. The Knicks had three first-round picks that year, the 18th, 19th and 21st selections. They weren’t going to move up high enough to draft Allen Iverson or Stephon Marbury, but if they had packaged picks might they have moved up a few spots and been able to land Kobe Bryant, who went 13th? Or Steve Nash, taken 15th? Or Jermaine O’Neal, whom they missed by one pick? Instead they took Wallace, Walter McCarty and Dontae’ Jones.
- Jazz point guard Raul Neto is very easy on the eyes, though I still somehow found him even hotter with his back to the camera. Take that as you will. Who’s the most beautiful NBA player you’ve ever seen?
- What is your basketball pet peeve? The thing that happens all the time that really sticks in your craw? The fiancee hates when the Knicks are losing and trading baskets. I lose my shit when they get a big stop but give up an offensive rebound. You?
- The Captain was in attendance.
Dot drills a three while Willis Reed snags some air time pic.twitter.com/TCtMuKUyls— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) March 20, 2019
Not that captain. “The” Captain.
- Trivia answer: Laimbeer was named to four All-Star teams.
Quoth Russ: “‘Yakety Sax’ played on the MSG organ would make this game perfect.” Next game is Friday vs. Denver. Bad news: expect that one to look a lot like this one did. Good news: only 10 games left before you can turn all your hopes, dreams and attention to the Knicks slipping multiple spots in the lottery.