Knicks Beat Jazz, End Seven-Game Slide
New York 98, Utah 90
NEW YORK, Dec. 23 (Ticker) -- Already with a multitude of problems, the New York Knicks temporarily solved two - effort and aggression.
Facing an eighth straight loss, the Knicks rode 28 points from Jamal Crawford and pulled out a 98-90 victory over the Utah Jazz, who dropped the final three games of a five-game road trip.
But instead of capitalizing, the Knicks continued losing. And with the exception of last Saturday's six-point home loss to Indiana, the losses were ugly as four of their previous five defeats were by double digits.
The low point came Wednesday, when New York trailed by as many as 32 points in a 109-96 loss to San Antonio. That defeat - on the eve of much-maligned Isiah Thomas' second anniversary as team president - saw Madison Square Garden fans direct their boos toward New York native Stephon Marbury.
"I think tonight we wanted to get off that losing streak," Marbury said. "I think everybody came focused and ready to play tonight on both ends of the court."
But the effort and aggression that was lacking or non-existent during their skid returned from the outset against the Jazz, who have some of the same issues as the Knicks.
"We got good shots," New York coach Larry Brown said. "We took care of the ball for the most part, better than we have been. We got to the free-throw line and we got a lot of dribble penetration tonight. It's what we're trying to do."
In their first win since December 6 at Seattle, the Knicks attacked the basket more aggressively and enjoyed one of their better defensive efforts of the season as they tied a season best by forcing 23 turnovers.
"It's just good for us," New York forward Antonio Davis said. "After that third game, we had to realize something had to change."
The willingness to attack the basket despite center Eddy Curry's absence resulted in a 32-of-45 showing from the line. It also helped the Knicks shoot 46 percent (31-of-67) from the field.
"I'm always in favor of that (dribble penetration), especially when you don't have a low post presence right now in Eddy," Brown said. "We made a constant effort to try get out to the 3-point line. I think if we're a threat out there, it opens up dribble penetration."
Since scoring 31 points in New York's last win, Crawford had shot 39 percent (22-of-65) in the last seven games. But he used screens from various teammates to make 9-of-15 shots, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
"It felt good," Crawford said. "We didn't take any steps backwards. We didn't fold when they made their run.
"You look at me and see 28 points and Steph with 22 points, but our big guys are setting really good screens. Mo (Maurice Taylor), Malik (Rose), Antonio and Jerome (James) - all of those guys are getting us open, which makes it easier for us."
Like the Knicks, the Jazz were lacking a post presence. Already without forward Carlos Boozer, who has yet to play due to a hamstring injury, Utah played its third straight game and 10th overall without forward Andrei Kirilenko, whose back injury could sideline him for a considersable period.
The Jazz shot 46 percent (30-of-65) but were sub-par at the line and holding onto the ball. They made 29-of-42 free throws, fell one shy of their season-worst for turnovers, and ended their trip with just one win.
"We missed too many free throws," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "We couldn't keep people in front of us. Crawford was terrific. He hit a couple of big shots down the stretch."
Two nights after facing a 21-point halftime deficit, the Knicks got 12 points from Crawford in the second quarter and took a 47-45 lead into the locker room. They grabbed the lead for good on Rose's free throw with 14 seconds left in the third quarter.
Crawford scored 10 points in the fourth quarter as New York gradually pulled away. He had a driving layup with 4:59 remaining that made it 89-80 and sealed the win with a 3-pointer that made it 94-85 with 2:51 remaining - and gave the fans something to cheer about.
"It's tough love," Crawford said of the crowd. "They are still coming out every night. We just have to bring the effort every night."
Marbury finished with 22 points and seven assists for New York, which avoided its longest home losing streak in 19 years. The Knicks lost six straight here from November 29-December 20, 1986.
Gordan Giricek scored a season-high 19 points and Matt Harpring added 15 for Utah, which has lost its last four contests against New York.