It seems like forever since the Utah Jazz beat the Houston Rockets in overtime, but luckily the Jazz are back in action tonight against the New York Knicks. This game should be rather interesting as the Knicks have shown the ability to hang with almost any team this season. The Knicks have also shown some fickleness, though, losing to teams like the Cavs (who got shellacked by the Lakers by 55 last night) and the T-Wolves.
Right now the Knicks are 2-1 on their 4-game road trip against Western Conference foes, and they are hoping to make it 3-1 after tonight. If they want to do that, they need to continue to run their offense through the league’s second-leading scorer, Amare Stoudemire. Not only is Stoudemire a challenge to guard for most of the teams in the league, but he has also been a thorn in the side of the Utah Jazz in particular. Last season in 4 games (with the Suns), Stat averaged 27.5 points per game against the Jazz including a 44-point outburst in their third meeting.
On the bright side for the Jazz, they won’t have to be stuck with Carlos Boozer or Mehmet Okur trying to cover Stoudemire tonight. Now they have Al Jefferson, who may not be somebody who is regarded as a defensive stopper, but is definitely an upgrade from the likes of a Carlos Boozer. Also, the Jazz won’t have to deal with the combination of Stoudemire and Steve Nash. Yes, the Knicks have a very talented point guard of their own in Raymond Felton, but he doesn’t come close to Steve Nash.
On offense, the Jazz need to come out clicking on all cylinders. The layoff might have the Jazz playing rusty, and if that’s the case, it can be a long night in SLC. However, if Deron Williams and the crew can set the tone early, and they can get out and run for a few easy deuces, the Jazz should be in great shape to win this game. Remember, there are positives to having big layoffs, and having extra energy is one of those positives. The Knicks, on the other hand, are coming off of a game last night in Portland where they only played 8 players. What this means is that the Jazz should definitely have an edge when it comes to fatigue tonight. If the Jazz exploit it like they should, it could be one of those rare times when the Jazz win the game comfortably. But again, if they don’t show up early and force the Knicks to use their energy on a possible comeback, this game will be a battle to the end between two very good teams.
Another guy on the Knicks that I’m keeping my eye on is Landry Fields. The rookie out of Stanford has turned heads all around the league with his high-flying dunks and rebounds, and he has truly given the Knicks the energy they have needed to be successful thus far this season. The Jazz will need to keep him off the glass and out of the paint, which will require extra attention and focus by the player who is guarding him. That player will likely be Raja Bell for the majority of the game. If you look at the way Bell defends, he actually matches up well with a guy like Fields. Bell is going to be physical, and he is going to pride himself on limiting Fields’ big plays. If he can be effective, that will go a long way to getting the Jazz the victory.