Late Mistakes, Loose Balls Doom Jazz in New York

November 16th, 2017 | by Dan Clayton

The Jazz battled but get outscrapped by the Knicks in a 106-101 loss (Photo by Elsa via ESPN)

The Utah Jazz got a season-best scoring outburst from Rodney Hood on Wednesday, and Donovan Mitchell got a memorable Madison Square Garden debut. Neither, though, got when they came to Manhattan for: a first road win of the 2017-18 season.

The Jazz surrendered a fourth quarter lead on their way to a 106-101 loss to the New York Knicks. After a hot shooting start, Utah’s offense stalled after halftime. Defensive adjustments by the Knicks slowed the Jazz’s ball movement, and the hosts also secured a number of crucial loose balls down the stretch.

“A few loose balls — that was the difference,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “They capitalized on some of those. We’ve got to come up with some of those 50-50 balls and not give them extra attempts… There were a number of possessions like that in the fourth quarter.”

Case in point: with the Jazz trailing by a single point in the final minute, Derrick Favors blocked a Tim Hardaway attempt in the paint, but rookie Frank Ntilikina corralled the rebound for the hosts. His pass to the opposite corner was deflected by Mitchell, but the ball pegged Courtney Lee’s knees and went through Doug McDermott’s legs before rolling out to center court, just beyond the reach of Utah’s Joe Ingles. Hardaway, now at at midcourt, recovered the ball after the hectic sequence and seconds later turned the play into a three-point shot for a 102-98 lead.

“There were some loose balls that really hurt us, both mentally and on the scoreboard,” Jazz guard Ricky Rubio said.

Even before that sequence, Utah had coughed up a four-point lead by surrendering a 12-2 Knicks run, capped by five straight points from Kristaps Porzingis. Meanwhile, the Jazz had yet another stretch where they simply struggled to score. After a first half that saw them drop 10 triples en route to a 60-point total at intermission, the club went nearly five minutes without a score in the fourth quarter.

“When you get down in the fourth quarter, having someone be able create a shot is something that we’re working on,” Snyder acknowledged. “We had a couple times we attacked and didn’t make great decisions at the end.”

Hood and Mitchell each had late drives that resulted in turnovers, and a couple of rushed attempts didn’t help. All told, Utah finished the period with just six makes on 33 percent shooting to go with four turnovers.

“We made some mistakes,” Hood said after the game. “We understand it’s a small margin for error for our team, and tonight was one of those nights.”

Hood and Mitchell were aggressive early, and Hood in particular helped Utah survive in the third quarter as the Knicks began to make their adjustments. The hosts began switching screens out front, and Utah’s offense stagnated as a result, Hood helped Utah out of some dead-end plays with pull-up jumpers. including three threes. He had 15 in the period and later explained that he was “just being aggressive for my team.”

He hit a season-high 30 points, and Mitchell added 19 in the losing effort. The rookie, who was raised in the Westchester County community of Elmsford, started hot with 17 in front of an estimated 200 friends and family who came to see his MSG debut. He only added another two points in the second half, going 1-for-7 after the break. Rubio and Joe Ingles each chipped in 13.

For the Knicks, Porzingis was typically impossible to guard and finished with 22. Jonas Jerebko started for the Jazz so that he could guard the talented Latvian, and he did solid work. But at 7’3″ with elite length and polished skills, it’s just impossible to take everything away from Porzingis. Utah closed with Favors guarding him, but that pulled the Jazz’s best rebounder out of the paint, which led to some of those second chances for the Knick offense.

That said, the Jazz probably could have survived with limiting Porzingis — a 29.5 point per game scorer — to 22 on 8-for-19 shooting. The unexpected hero was Hardaway, who came up with hustle plays and big shots all throughout the fourth quarter. Fourteen of his team-high 26 came in the final stanza, and he also helped complicate matters for Utah’s wings on the other end.

With the loss, Utah drops to 6-9 overall. They’ll have another shot to score a road win in the five boroughs when they cross the East River on Friday night to face Brooklyn. After that, their road trip continues on to Orlando and Philadelphia. But Snyder’s less worried about the pressure of locking up a road win than he is about seeing his young team improve.

“I’d like to win at home too,” the coach panned. “You know, they count the same.”

Briefly

Metro North Mitchell. While Mitchell’s hometown(ish) debut didn’t end quite as he envisioned, it started auspiciously enough.

On the Jazz’s first offensive possession, Snyder called a play to get the rookie a highlight-worthy alley-oop dunk. The Westchester native pitched to Rubio on a dribble handoff and then shot off a Favors backscreen to get to the rim and catch the Rubio lob.

“It surprised me, I didn’t think I was going to be able to get it,” Mitchell recanted later. “We’ve ran it before and the guy usually sags back. Ricky threw a great pass.”

He added that usually his first score in a game helps calm his nerves, but not in this case case. The excitement of playing in the Garden kept him nervous throughout. Mitchell shared before the game that he had been to many games at MSG to cheer on Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and others, but he had never been at floor level until Wednesday’s shootaround.

He’s certainly been there now. And he made sure everybody knew it, right from his first play.

“I’ll never forget that one.”

Coach speak. Knicks coach and former Jazz legend Jeff Hornacek had nice works for the rook, too. “We liked him when he came in here for a workout,” Horny admitted before the game.

New York had the eighth pick in a loaded draft, and brought Mitchell in to consider selecting him. Ultimately they opted for Ntilikina, but Hornacek sounds like a believer in Mitchell’s early returns.

Traveling infirmary. Rudy Gobert (knee) and Joe Johnson (wrist) remain out for the Jazz, but are on this four-game road trip. Snyder spoke about the value of having the pair with the team as they make a quick tour of the Eastern Conference. He commented on Johnson sharing some veteran knowledge, and he likes that Gobert gets to stay “connected” to the team.

Dante Exum, who’s out for a longer period as he rehabs from shoulder surgery, did not travel this time out.

 

Dan Clayton

Dan Clayton

Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City, but contributes regularly to Salt City Hoops, FanRag and BBALLBreakdown.
Dan Clayton

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