The Jazz pulled out a 102-100 victory over the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden tonight, capped by a game-winning shot by Trey Burke as time expired. Here are three keys to the game:
1. Welcome back, Trey Burke
Trey Burke simply lives for clutch situations. In his prestigious collegiate career and during his rookie campaign, the diminutive point guard has relished the big shot or big play at the end of games. Friday versus the New York Knicks was no exception. In an expertly drawn up play by head coach Quin Snyder, Burke calmly drained a jumper over the arms of J.R. Smith and promptly fell right into the arms of his ecstatic teammates. It was a beautiful scene. These seem to be weekly occurrences for this young Utah Jazz squad.
The game-winner was the obvious highlight, but beyond that dramatic shot, Burke had his best game of the season. Much has been said about his struggles, some coming from yours truly. And yes, he has really struggled. But on Friday, he played with the poise and demeanor that impressed during large portions of his first year. He orchestrated the offense and made things happen within the game. Burke was 5-9 from the floor, including a trio of 3-pointers. He dished out eight assists with just a pair of turnovers1. Lastly, he registered a team-best +16 mark. While that stat has its flaws, it shows a glimpse into a player’s affect on a game.
This could be the game that turns around Trey Burke’s season, which would do wonders for a Jazz team that is already surprising many around the league.
2. Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors were needed to come through with big games, and they complied.
Madison Square Garden has been the scene of many dramatic NBA battles. It has seen its fair share of big games and magical performances. It’s clearly one of the biggest, most exhilarating sporting venues in any sports. What NBA player does not get up for that? For the Jazz to pull out a win, they needed their pair of fifth-year studs, Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, to step up on the MSG stage. And step up they did.
What else can be said about Hayward’s start? He has been playing exceptionally well, doing everything Snyder and Dennis Lindsey have asked of him and then some. Hayward was not intimidated by the arena or his match-up with Carmelo Anthony. Even when Melo was doing his Melo things, Hayward kept answering back. Scoring 33 points on just 18 shots is great alone. Add in six assists, four steals and three rebounds, and you have a guy who looks like a big-time player doing it on a big-time stage.
Favors was fantastic. He too did not back down and his stat line showed: 21 points on 15 shots, 12 rebounds (five offensive), a pair of assists and three big blocked shots. He made his presence known defensively despite Carmelo’s three over him to tie the game; not many would have been able to prevent Anthony’s huge trifecta. When Favors and Hayward are both on their games, it makes Utah a difficult team to defeat.
3- New York only had one starter show up. Okay, 1.4 guys showed up.
Anthony is one of the NBA’s most unique talents. With his potent inside-outside game and his bullish, aggressive style, he is one of the toughest guys to defend. He kept pouring it on, despite Snyder throwing several different guys at him. Melo ended the night with 46 points and seven rebounds–yet another big outing. And yet another loss, due to limited contributions from the other four teammates.
While second-year point guard Shane Larkin was decent, the Knick starters did not do much on the court overall. Larkin, Jason Smith, Samuel Dalembert and Iman Shumpert joined forces to shoot just 7 of 23 from the floor for 15 total points. Last time I checked, that’s not too hot. Shumpert went out one minute into the game with a hip injury. Behind reserves Pablo Prigioni and J.R. Smith, New York’s bench fared much better, but the lack of production from the starters offset a lot of Melo’s efforts.
The Jazz are back in action north of the border tomorrow night, taking on the Toronto Raptors. Be sure to check back to Salt City Hoops for another Triple Team along with more great analysis.