Las Vegas • In the face of daunting athleticism, sometimes a veteran’s deft touch is required.
Matched up with uber-athletic Knicks lottery pick Kevin Knox, Jazz forward Georges Niang managed to lean in toward the hoop and draw a foul and get to the line — a critical edge with 22 seconds left for Utah’s 90-85 victory over New York on Sunday night at Cox Pavilion.
“Yeah, we worked on that a couple times back in Salt Lake City,” said Niang, smiling despite a bruise swelling beneath his left eye.
He had good reason to soak up the evening after scoring a game-high 20 points, helping the Jazz compensate for an early exit by center Tony Bradley. As a team, Utah managed to withstand a salvo of Knox (19 points), Frank Ntilikina (17 points) and Allonzo Trier (15 points) to get the squad’s first win in the Las Vegas Summer League.
Two years removed from being a second-round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Niang has used these summer exhibitions to prime himself for a position to make a roster (and perhaps even the Jazz) this fall.
“My body, my versatility, keeping guys in front of me on the defensive end,” Niang said. “Just overall making plays for others.”
Playmaking was something summer league coach Alex Jensen asked for more of — and got more of — in Utah’s second game in Cox Pavilion, and he noted that he saw more guards willing to pass the ball than the opening loss to Portland on Saturday.
The Jazz found a particularly hot hand at the start of the second half, as Bradley scored 10 points in three minutes while matched against New York’s Mitchell Robinson, a first-round pick. But after going 7 for 8, Bradley was slowed up by a left wrist injury: The Jazz taped him up midgame and he attempted to return, but he was ultimately out for most of the second half of a close game.
Backup center Diamond Stone found a rhythm, hitting for 14 points on the night.