Given that the Knicks are pretty bad to begin with, and even worse with Julius Randle, Marcus Morris and Dennis Smith Jr. out, Wednesday’s Jazz game felt like a glorified practice session at times.
Looks like some extra free-throw work is in order.
Too many missed freebies and some spotty perimeter defense in the first quarter were about the only negative takeaways from an otherwise pretty flawless 128-104 victory at Vivint Smart Home Arena in which eight Jazz players scored in double figures.
The win was Utah’s seventh straight and 12th in its past 13 games. The Jazz are now 25-12 on the season.
Seemingly bored and perhaps sleepwalking through a matchup against an undisciplined opponent, the Jazz’s lead was cut to 46-40 about 4 minutes into the second period. Coach Quin Snyder swapped out four members of the lineup and the Jazz, sufficiently chastened by the embarrassingly close margin, immediately responded with a 13-2 run to bust the game wide open.
Former Knicks guard Emmanuel Mudiay showed a bit of the progress he’s made since leaving, as he displayed some point guard chops to go along with his scoring ability. In one stretch, he pushed the ball in transition and located Joe Ingles above the break for an open 3, then after blocking a shot, zipped the ball down low to Rudy Gobert, who drew the foul.
Mudiay went on to total a season-high 20 points (on 8-for-12 shooting), plus four assists and three rebounds.
“It’s a credit to him for all of his preparation and work that he’s put in. He’s worked, he’s worked, he’s worked. It hasn’t always been an easy road,” said coach Quin Snyder. “… For him to be able to handle different rotations and different matchups, that’s a guy who’s becoming a true pro.”
For his part, Mudiay credited his coach with getting him to this point.
“I thought I was a pretty OK, smart player until I came here. When I came here, [Snyder] took it to another level,” Mudiay said. “I’m committed. … I bought in.”
Meanwhile, Bojan Bogdanovic had the offense rolling early, making 4 of 5 shots (including 3 of 4 from deep) for 11 points before heading to the bench for the first time. He would also finish with 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting
And unlike in the preceding Pelicans game — where he famously had zeroes across the board beyond his 35 points — he contributed some rebounds [three] and assists [also three] this time, as Ingles made sure to loudly point out during Bogey’s postgame media session.
“They were making fun of me last time,” Bogdanovic noted, before turning his attention to Ingles. “I tripled my numbers tonight!”
The Jazz shot 54.4% from the field for the game (vs. 43.3 for New York), and made 16 of 43 beyond the arc. (They did only finish 14 of 23 at the line, however.)
“In the first quarter, we were kind of trading baskets, and in the second quarter we started to play our defense, our game, and by the end, it was kind of an easy game for us,” Bogdanovic added.
As for Gobert, whether matched up against Taj Gibson or Bobby Portis or Mitchell Robinson or any other similarly overwhelmed Knick big, the Frenchman consistently wrecked them all. Gobert made all five of his field-goal attempts, and finished with 16 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and a block.
The game was essentially over by halftime, when the margin stood at 72-53, owing to Utah shooting 65% from the field against New York’s approximation of a defense. Four Jazz players were already in double-digit scoring. The only thing keeping the game even that close was the Jazz’s rather pedestrian 11-of-19 effort from the stripe.
Because the game was only “essentially” over rather than “actually” over, both teams took the court for the second half.
Utah promptly erased whatever lingering concerns there might be about a post-halftime breakdown. By the time Donovan Mitchell capped a third quarter-opening 10-0 run by literally strolling past halfcourt unchecked, exploding to the rim with no one moving to challenge him, and throwing down one of his patented hammer dunks, the Jazz led by 29, and New York — on the second half of a back-to-back — opted against expending the kind of energy necessary for mounting a comeback.
Mitchell, whose usual scoring histrionics were not needed this time around, totaled 16 points in 25 minutes. Tony Bradley added 12 points and seven rebounds. Ingles contributed 11 points and five assists, and sixth man Jordan Clarkson also chipped in 11. Georges Niang became the final player in double digits when he buried a 3 right before the final horn to also total 11.
The Jazz shot 54.4% from the field for the game (vs. 43.3 for New York), and made 16 of 43 beyond the arc. They had a season-high 57 bench points and a season-low seven turnovers. (They did only finish 14 of 23 at the line, however.)
“Our bench is doing a really good job,” Snyder said. “… Guys are connected, and those combinations on the floor, guys are playing the right way.”