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Game Preview: New York Knicks vs Utah Jazz, January 30

Markkanen leads Jazz charge: Can Knicks hold their ground at Madison Square Garden?

NBA: New York Knicks at Utah Jazz Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight the New York Knicks (30-17) welcome the Utah Jazz (24-24) into Madison Square Garden. The Jazz will be playing the last of a six-game road trip that included a game against Brooklyn last night. They lost to the Nets, 147-114. Yikes!

Also playing on a back-to-back, New York won/lost last night in Charlotte, 113-92. That was their first game played since Julius Randle dislocated his shoulder.

When they last met, back in December, New York fell short against Utah, 117-113.

A streaky team, Utah won six straight recently, and have gone 2-5 since then. Their roster is wonky, but Will Hardy makes the most of it. On a recent 15 game stretch, they ranked first in the league for points per game (127), sixth for field goal percentage (50.1%), and third for rebounds (behind Boston and New York). Over that same span, they’ve ranked second for assists (31 per game) and fourth for blocks.

Team leader Lauri Markkanen is scoring 24 points per game and is more efficient than ever, with career-highs in both 2-point (59.4%) and 3-point percentages (40.2%). He also tops the club with rebounds (8.8) per game.

Utah’s offense is fun to watch, as explained by Joe Hulbert in this deep dive at The Swish Theory. (Seriously great article.) The Jazz has six players averaging four or more assists per game, with Jordan Clarkson topping all with five dimes per outing. Clarkson is also the team’s second-highest scorer with 18 PPG, too. Bench big Walker Kessler is swatting down 2.7 bocks per contest.

The Jazz turn the ball over a lot, and they do struggle with transition defense. New York should pressure the ball handlers and capitalize on those turnovers with fastbreak points.

Power forward John Collins (14.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG), small forward Simone Fontecchio (9.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG), and point guard Kris Dunn (5.2 PPG, 4.3 APG) are expected to round out the starting five.

Prediction

The Jazz play at a fast pace, score a bunch, and excel in rebounding (second in the league). Both teams face the challenge of playing the second game of a back-to-back, but Utah is coming over from Brooklyn whereas the Knicks are returning from Charlotte. The absence of Julius Randle’s 24 points and 9.2 rebounds will be felt tonight, I’ll bet. Nonetheless, I think this lighter, faster version of the Knicks will steal a victory in front of their hometown crowd, against the road-weary team, and win their eighth in a row. New York by +5.

Game Details

Who: New York Knicks vs Utah Jazz

When: 7:30 pm EST, Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Where: Madison Square Garden, NYC

Watch: MSG

Follow: @ptknicksblog