New York at Utah
Time: 9:30 PM CT (ESPN)
Spread: UTA -4.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The New York Knicks hot start to the 2017-18 season has now amounted to precious little. The Knicks have dropped seven of its past 10 and fallen to No. 10 in the Eastern Conference, trailing No.8 Detroit by three-games as the All-Star break approaches. New York should have one representative in the All-Star game, but outside of the outstanding play of Kristaps Porzingis, there is not a lot of reasons for the Knicks to be excited about how this first half of the NBA season has shaken out.
The Knicks will travel to face the Utah Jazz as 4.5-point underdogs on the road in the second game of an ESPN Friday night doubleheader. The over/under is set at 204.5 points according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
New York has also managed just one win in its past five games, a 119-104 victory over the crosstown Brooklyn Nets. Last game’s 105-99 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies was more emblematic of the struggles the Knicks have encountered throughout the most recent weeks. Kristaps Porzingis had 21 points on 8 of 19 shooting, and Enes Kanter did his thing in the paint in hitting 7 of 11 for 20 points. Courtney Lee chipped in 18 points, and Michael Beasley and Tim Hardaway Jr combined for another 34 points off the bench. But the Knicks shot just 42.7 percent from the floor as a team and hit just 7 of 27 from three-point range. Moreover, the team had few answers for Memphis’ swingman Tyreke Evans, who had 23 points, 10 assists and six rebounds while posting a +11 in his 34 minutes of court time.
And overall, New York’s struggles can mostly be traced to its horrible defense. The Knicks are surrendering 105.1 points per game, which renders them with a -0.9 point differential, and it is just a different player during the team every night. Whether it be a guard undeterred by Kanter’s lack of aggression around the rim, or simply an opposing big going bonkers, the Knicks are all too often unable to slow some of the league’s better scorers, which puts its own scoring mostly to waste. Porzingis and Kanter have bright futures, but the tandem does not function all that well together on the defensive end, and Kristaps is not the verbal leader that Steven Adams was in correcting Kanter’s poor positioning, and helping Kanter to learn the nature of defensive rotations.
While Kanter’s scoring ability is not in question, his ability to adequately defend the rim and opposing 5s casts a shadow on his certainty as a career-long NBA starter, at a minimum.
Utah has basically changed its entire attack without Rudy Gobert available. The Jazz, instead, now are playing a faster pace to utilize the skills of rookie Donovan Mitchell. He had 35 points and five rebounds on 10 of 20 shooting (5 of 11 threes) in the 99-88 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. Mitchell is looking like a future superstar, and the Jazz have some nice young pieces around him, but his emergence may shape the future of the Jazz’ building effort. With an offensive cog like Mitchell around Gobert, it may be that the Jazz shape its attack around Mitchell, with Rudy Gobert simply being the defensive anchor he is.
Mitchell is averaging 22.8 points per game over his last 10 outings while shooting 47.7 percent from the floor. In January, he has averaged 23.4 points per game, no longer showing any signs of all of being a rookie. Mitchell also comes up with 1.4 steals per game over his past 10 games, while having scored 33 percent of his 9.6 threes attempted per game. Mitchell was taken No. 13 overall, but is definitely in the top-3 of whatever becomes of this draft class. He has the shooting range and slashing ability to become nearly unstoppable, and the Jazz may not have had a weapon of his caliber since the Stockton/Malone era.
“Spida,” as Michell refers to himself, is better than the likes of Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, and the multitude of semi-stars the Jazz have rostered, and the Pacers are much about a young prospect of their own in what could be an exciting showdown between two of the league’s best unheralded talents.