NEW YORK (AP) – Improved defensive play and success on the road are playing a part in the New York Knicks’ revival this season.
The Utah Jazz have been buoyed by overcoming large deficits.
The Knicks will try to conclude a four-game road trip above .500 while the Jazz look to extend their success over New York when they meet Wednesday night.
New York (22-15) is just seven wins shy of matching its total from last season, and has already surpassed its total of road victories by going 12-8 so far.
The Knicks are 2-1 during their current four-game trip, all against Western Conference teams that reached the playoffs in 2009-10. On Tuesday, they beat Portland 100-86, holding the Trail Blazers to 34.9 percent shooting and 4 of 18 from 3-point range.
“I’d say we are getting it,” coach Mike D’Antoni said about the Knicks’ defense. “The key is that players are buying into it and trying to get better at it.”
New York ranks 27th in the NBA, allowing 105.8 points per game. However, they’re limiting opponents to an average of 97.0 points and 39.8 percent from the floor during this trip.
Amar’e Stoudemire has scored 23 points during each game on the trip, and is second in the NBA with 26.2 points per game, trailing only Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City (28.2).
Stoudemire, though, is averaging 28.4 points on 61.7 percent shooting in the last seven meetings with the Jazz (25-13), all while with Phoenix.
Raymond Felton, second on the club with 18.1 points per game and the leader with 8.8 assists, hasn’t been very effective against Utah. He’s averaging 12.0 points and 5.8 assists in five visits while playing with Charlotte.
While the Knicks are enjoying a return to relevancy, Utah continues to be one of the league’s more consistent successes. The Jazz are tied with Oklahoma City for first in the Northwest – a division they have won in three of the past four seasons.
Utah has also won four in a row at EnergySolutions Arena over the Knicks, and will be looking for its fourth straight victory overall against New York.
The Jazz have used a rather unorthodox method for success in 2010-11, winning 12 games after rallying to overcome deficits of at least 10 points. They pulled off the feat again Saturday, coming back from 14 down at halftime to win 103-99 in overtime against Houston.
“It shows we’ve got a lot of heart, and we’ve got a lot of guys who don’t want to lose on this team,” said forward Paul Millsap, who scored 23 of his 27 points after the third quarter. “But we’ve got to focus in and get off to better starts if we want to progress through this season.”
If the Jazz are going to get off to a better start, they’ll need improved shooting from Deron Williams, the team leader with 21.8 points and 9.3 assists per game. Williams is shooting 31.8 percent over the last three games, averaging 17.3 points with 10.0 assists after getting 14 and 15, respectively, Saturday.
Over the last three home meetings with New York, Williams is connecting on 54.0 percent of his shots to average 23.0 points with 13.0 assists.
Utah is 18-1 when scoring 100 points, losing seven of the last nine when failing to reach triple digits.
© 2011 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.