By, Kenneth Teape – Knickswag Contributor
Post Game Recap
Final Score: Knicks: 90 Jazz: 83
It was a tough trip for the Knicks, who lost the first four games by an average of 20 points and numerous players, but they were able to pull together and get a victory in Utah to end the road trip. It was a much needed victory for the Knicks who will head back to New York with some good feelings after avoiding getting swept on the trip. The Knicks were able to maintain a one game lead over the Nets even without Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire.
Raymond Felton played a strong game for the Knicks, playing a team high 42 minutes. Felton scored 19 points on eight of 12 shooting from the field, adding four assists, one rebound and three steals. Felton only had one turnover tonight, a big reason why the Knicks won as they were able to control tempo and did not allow the Jazz to get out in transition. Felton looks to be getting back into playing shape after suffering the hand injury on Christmas as his shot is finally starting to come along as well.
Kurt Thomas showed just how valuable of a piece he can be to this team. After coming out of the Clippers game Sunday afternoon injured, the Knicks were worried that he had a stress fracture in his ankle and would miss the remainder of the season. After getting an x-ray and MRI it was seen that Thomas only had a bone spurs and he suited up and played big minutes for the Knicks Monday. Thomas played 27 minutes, a season high and most of any big men in the game. He scored six points, grabbed three rebounds, had two assists and blocked three shots. Thomas played great defense and showed all the intangibles that he has and why the Knicks are keeping him around. Thomas will continue to play a big role as long as Chandler and Anthony are sidelined.
Much like Thomas, Kenyon Martin showed toughness and the value that a veteran can have to a team. Martin scored nine points and grabbed nine rebounds in 21 minutes played, also registering a steal and block. Martin manned the interior for the beginning of the game by himself and did a good job of holding it down for the short-handed Knicks. He should continue seeing this amount of playing time even when the Knicks get healthier as his defensive mindset is something the Knicks desperately need at times.
Even without Chandler, the Knicks defense was stellar against the Jazz. They held the Jazz to 38.2 percent shooting from the field, forcing them into a number of bad shots. Another positive looking deeper into the stats is that the Knicks allowed only 22 points in the paint. A team that started Martin alongside an undrafted rookie free agent in Chris Copeland held a Jazz team consisting of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favor to 22 points in the paint. Just let that sink in a little as the Knicks then brought in 40-year old Thomas and 38-year old Marcus Camby as reserves and they too slowed down the Jazz interior players.
J.R. Smith had a first half to forget, scoring only two points and going one of six from the field, but he put in a very efficient second half to lead the Knicks to victory. Smith scored 18 points in the second half, half of which came from the foul line as Smith attacked the basket continually and got to the foul line for 10 attempts. He knocked down four of his seven shots in the second half as well en route to a team high 20 points. Smith added five rebounds on the night too as he did well leading the Knicks in the second half.
Chris Copeland was tabbed to start because of his scoring prowess and did exactly that in the game, as he scored 14 points on six of 15 from the field. A more telling stat from his stat line though is the season high six rebounds. Mike Woodson has said numerous times that Copeland does not see the court because of his lack of defense and rebounding; Copeland, at least for one game, looked to be tired of hearing this and worked hard on the boards. Copeland should continue pushing for playing time even once Carmelo Anthony.
Steve Novak did not make a shot in the game, scoring all four of his points from the foul line. Of the five games on the trip, Novak failed to make a shot in three of them, going scoreless in two. Novak will have to start knocking down shots or his playing time will be in jeopardy. He plays defense and rebounds worse than Copeland and really is worthless on the court if he is not knocking down jumpers. He will have to start to get things going or he will find himself on the bench more times than not.
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