New York at Utah
Time: 9:30 PM CT (ESPN)
Spread: UTA -12
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The second game of ESPN’s Wednesday night double header features only one team with a reason to be playing, as the Utah Jazz have proved itself to be one of the tougher teams in the league’s tougher conference. New York, meanwhile, has been New York. The Knicks look forward to another trip to the lottery, but before that happens it will travel to face the Jazz in a game most Knicks fans are probably rooting for a loss in. That said, NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes expect just that, setting the line an overwhelming 12-points in favor of Utah as it looks to further its lead on the L.A. Clippers in hopes of solidifying the No. 4 spot in the West.
Utah has won six of its past 10 SU, and the Jazz are 23-12 at home this season. Utah has lost its past three games, however, and it likely welcomes the chance to face the struggling Knicks given its need to get back on track, so to speak. The three losses came courtesy of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers, the last of two being clubs Utah should have easily disposed of. Instead, it fell by an average of 10 points per game over that span. In the loss to the Pacers, Paul George was badly outplayed by fellow All-Star Gordon Hayward, who had 38 points on 16 of 24 shooting.
George, meanwhile, connected on just 6 of 20 for 19 points, but it was a game fairly reflective of his season. After a career year a season ago, George has been mostly disappointing this season and the primary reason Indiana is just a few games above .500.
Utah, instead, has had several players breakout this season, which is why the team has surprised. Rudy Gobert realistically should win the Defensive Player of the Year award. Free agent to-be Gordon Hayward is a legitimate franchise swingman. George Hill is an underrated and great point guard. The team has a bevy of depth, particularly in the frontcourt where it brings Trey Lyles and Boris Draw off the bench behind a starting 3/4 tandem of Hayward and Joe Johnson. Utah is capable of giving opposing teams a number of looks, and that is all without even fully developing or exercising Dante Exum, who may or may not be a bust (the jury is definitely still out on the former No. 5 overall pick).
The Jazz are just in a luxurious position, and it is mostly courtesy of great drafting and development of its own prospects. Given that the Jazz have never had a sustained period of being horrible, Utah could even be said to be something of a “San Antonio lite” as an organization. A successful transition meant the Jazz never had to actually rebuild, which is a feat that is nearly impossible for any GM.
New York is still a team possessed by two ball-dominant players past their respective primes in Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony. Word circulating is that the Knicks are likely to look to move Anthony this offseason. If they do not, it will only further stunt the prospects of the Knicks’ major talent Kristaps Porzingis, who needs to find his footing in his first three seasons while still on a rookie contract.
Otherwise, the Knicks could lose Porzingis and start back at ground zero, and it would be their own fault for keeping Melo and Rose in the driver’s seat while Porzingis only moonlights as the No. 1 option he should already be full-time.
The Knicks are apparently going to stick to the triangle, too, despite its sheer predictability and its players disdain for the system. Old habits die hard. Phil Jackson does not seem to realize the triangle was successful because of the personnel he had, because without the right components it does little more than structure an offense destined to be ineffective.
The Knicks need to make more usage of Kyle O’Quinn and Joakim Noah (when healthy) as high post passers, while adding a 2-guard really capable of getting buckets—not just hogging the rock like Rose. All these gripes sum up the Knicks season fairly accurately, and the story has largely written itself. It is time for New York to build around Porzingis and it should be interesting to see which prospect Phil Jackson opts to pair with him when selecting in the 2017 NBA draft.