The New York Knicks (31-17) concluded an extraordinary January at home against the Utah Jazz (24-25) on a high note. They handed Utah a 118-103 defeat, pushing them below .500 and into the 10th spot in the Western Conference standings. Meanwhile, the Knicks’ victory, coupled with the Sixers’ loss to the Warriors last night, propelled them into 3rd place in the Eastern Conference standings, trailing the Bucks by 1.5 games for 2nd place and the Celtics by six games for the top spot. On a night marked by several career performances, the Knicks capped off one of their best months in franchise history with their eighth straight victory, finishing with a record of 14-2, their most impressive since 1994.
The Jazz surged ahead early, establishing a seven point lead within the first five minutes of the game. Donte DiVincenzo then initiated his latest career night, sinking the first of his nine three-pointers, bringing the score to 15-11 with 6:47 left in the first quarter. Not even a full minute later, DDV nailed his second three of the night to cut the Jazz lead to two. The Knicks were now in a groove, and in the next play down the court, Jalen Brunson located a cutting Precious Achiuwa along the baseline with a beautiful no-look pass, setting up a slam dunk to tie the game at 18. From that point, the Knicks were officially in control. Another deep 26-foot three by DDV with 11.1 seconds left in the first quarter closed out the period with the Knicks now leading by seven, 29-22. After that, the Knicks never trailed again.
With OG Anunoby sidelined for his second straight game due to elbow inflammation, and Randle now out for his third consecutive game, the Knicks have leaned heavily on Precious Achiuwa and Josh Hart, and they surpassed expectations. Hart achieved his first career triple-double with tens across the board, while Achiuwa delivered his most outstanding performance since joining the Knicks in January, contributing 18 points, five rebounds, and two blocks in 40 minutes of play—the second most of any Knick.
It wasn’t only the starters experiencing career nights; everyone had a chance to join in on last night’s stellar performance. Even Taj Gibson had his moment, but more on that later. In the early moments of the second quarter, Knicks center Jericho Sims showcased the dunk of the night, executing a dazzling 180 spin move around Wes Kessler before finishing with a powerful two-handed slam.
Already having three 3-pointers to his credit, DDV sunk his fourth from the left wing just 5 minutes into the second quarter. The Jazz managed to stay within reach during the third quarter, thanks to a corner three by Jordan Clarkson and a turnover by the Knicks. The turnover resulted in a wide-open layup by Colin Sexton, cutting the Knicks’ lead to three with just over three minutes remaining in the half.
The Knicks showed no signs of faltering as Batman and Robin 2.0 (Brunson & Achiuwa) connected on back-to-back trips down the floor, including an And-1 lay-up by Precious that brought the Garden crowd to their feet. The Knicks pushed their lead to ten, leading the Jazz 54-44. Several minutes later, DDV drained his 5th three of the game, a 27-foot bomb, extending the Knicks’ lead to 57-46. Simone Fontecchio of the Jazz countered with a three of his own to narrow the gap, and the first half concluded with the Knicks holding a 57-49 lead. Through the first half, the Knicks were in full control on both sides of the court and dominated the paint 28-18 against a much bigger and stronger team.
The Jazz gave their best effort to keep it close in the third, but the Knicks were just too hot to handle outscoring the Jazz 36-24 in the third. Isaiah Hartenstein, who also had his best game since coming back from injury gave the Knicks the boost they needed to kick it into overdrive. After he grabbed a rebound off his miss, he emphatically slammed it home over Fontecchio. This putback would spark a Knicks run that saw the Knicks push their lead to 13 midway through the third, thanks in large part to Jalen Brunson’s nine points in 1:50 worth of playing time.
Two consecutive threes by DDV and Brunson expanded the Knicks’ lead to 20 with 2:35 remaining in the third quarter. The Knicks weren’t finished, though, as Hart scored on a 10-foot running floater with 6 seconds left in the third, further increasing the lead to 22. A 15-foot leaning jumper off the glass at the buzzer by the Jazz’s Keyonte George closed out the quarter, with the Knicks holding a commanding 93-73 advantage.
DiVincenzo kickstarted the Knicks’ 25-point fourth quarter with his 8th three just one minute into the final period. This marked a new career high for DDV from beyond the three-point line, yet he wasn’t done. With 4:23 remaining in the game, DiVincenzo nailed his 9th three of the night, establishing a new career high. By the end of the game, DiVincenzo accumulated 33 points, five rebounds, four assists, and an impressive four steals, delivering one of the most well-rounded performances by a Knick this season.
As the Knicks entered garbage time with a commanding double-digit lead, the “We Want Taj” chants resonated throughout the Garden. The night wouldn’t have been complete without Thibs obliging, and in the final minute, Taj Gibson was brought into the game to a standing ovation from the crowd.
All five starters finished the night in double figures. Brunson finished with 29 points and nine assists, and Hartenstein tallied another impressive double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Quoth cctoastt, “Most wins in a month since 1994. hmmmmmm.” We haven’t seen a Knicks team that is this special in a long time. Whether depleted or full-strength, they take care of their business. Feel free to fantasize about the Larry O’Brien, folks.
Up next, the Knicks welcome Obi back into the Garden tomorrow night for what is expected to be an absurdly high-scoring affair between the Knicks and the Pacers. See you then.