NEW YORK — The New York Knicks won their second straight game for only the second time in five weeks, turning back the Utah Jazz 108-81 Friday at Madison Square Garden.
New York (23-40) last won back-to-games Jan. 28 and 30 when it defeated Boston and Cleveland, respectively. The Knicks knocked off Minnesota on Wednesday.
Forward Carmelo Anthony paced the Knicks with 29 points and a season-high eight assists. Shooting guard J.R. Smith added 17 points and center Tyson Chandler recorded 16 points and 11 rebounds for his 13th double-double of the season.
Guards Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks led the Jazz (21-41) with 18 points apiece. Utah dropped its fifth straight game, all on the road. One of the lowest scoring teams in the league, it failed to score at least 100 points for the 43d time this season. It concludes the six-game journey Saturday at Philadelphia.
The Knicks, still clinging to the prospect of making the playoffs despite being 5 1/2 games behind Atlanta for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference as play began Friday, were in command for most of the game. They held a double-digit lead in the second half with a blend of long-range shooting and interior superiority.
“I am back where I was five or six years ago, chasing the eighth spot,” said Knicks coach Mike Woodson, referring to when he coached in Atlanta. “You have no choice but to watch now. Somebody’s going to get it (final playoff spot) and I hope it’s us.”
The one-sided romp against the Jazz was the Knicks seventh win by over 20 points this season. With three games in the next five days, the Knicks were able to rest their starters in the fourth quarter, especially 31-year-old forward Amar’e Stoudemire who has been hobbled this season with ankle and knee injuries. He scored 10 points in 18 minutes.
“If he (Stoudemire) had to play 30 minutes I don’t know if I would have had him for tomorrow (Saturday) against Cleveland for this back-to-back,” said Woodson. “Having that big lead certainly helped.”
The Knicks’ front line of Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler combined for 55 points and 16 rebounds. The 7-foot-1 Chandler was no match for Utah centers Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, scoring at will off the pick-and-roll.
“It seems like the focus has been there in shoot-arounds and walk throughs,” said Chandler of the Knicks’ recent improved play. “A lot of little things have helped the big things.”
New York took a 24-point advantage, 84-60, into the fourth quarter.
The closest Utah was able to get in the second quarter was 10 points at 43-33 with 8:08 left, but New York went on a 9-0 run to move ahead 52-33. Chandler dropped in six points and Anthony scored four points in the quarter.
“We talked about coming out and being aggressive,” said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. “Anthony is a great player but when you give up 39 points in the first quarter on the road – that’s hard to overcome.”
Anthony poured in 18 points in the first quarter to lead the Knicks to a 39-22 advantage. It marked the most points they have scored in any quarter this season. Anthony, who was battling a cold, nailed 3 of his 5 shots from beyond the arc and scored the Knicks’ final 11 points of the quarter.
“I didn’t even know he (Anthony) had a cold until maybe the second quarter,” Woodson admitted. “He looked like Melo to me.”
NOTES: New York is 9-1 when it holds the opposition to under 90 points. … G J.R. Smith recorded his 10th straight game in double-digit scoring with 17 points. … The Jazz are on their longest road trip since the 2003-04 season. The six-game journey in nine days spans 4,895 miles in the air. … Knicks F Amar’e Stoudemire averaged 18 points and 6.7 rebounds in the first three games in March. … Utah G Trey Burke is third in scoring average (12.5) and second in assists per game (5.4) among rookies. … Knicks F Carmelo Anthony leads the NBA in minutes per game (39.1). … The Jazz are 28th in the league in points per game (94.6) and assists per game (20).
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