New York Knicks: Utah Jazz

W2W4: Knicks at Jazz

March, 18, 2013
This road trip couldn't have been any worse for the short-handed Knicks, who have lost four games by an average margin of 20 points. The journey ends tonight in Utah.

Carmelo Anthony (leg injury) will miss the game, Tyson Chandler is questionable with a neck strain, and Kurt Thomas, who has been starting in place of Chandler, is questionable with a sprained right foot.

The Jazz are the last team to lose to New York, on March 9 before the Knicks went west -- and that was without Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire.

Here are three things the Knicks need to avoid a winless trip, starting at 10:30 p.m. (ESPN):

1. J.R. Smith's shooting and playmaking. Against Utah the last time, Smith finished 10-for-18 from the field (4-for-8 from 3-point range). But if he shoots 4-for-20, as he did Sunday afternoon in a 13-point loss to the Clippers, the Knicks will be at a major disadvantage.

Smith and the team did make adjustments to make the offense easier on their sixth man, who is currently the team's main scoring threat with the depleted roster.

After starting 0-for-5 from the field on Sunday, Smith attacked stronger in half-court sets and pushed the ball faster in transition, drawing fouls. He finished 8-for-9 from the line. In addition, his teammates, notably Thomas, set solid screens for him to get him open for quick jump shots. Sometimes, when Smith holds the ball too long, he doesn't make great decisions. He tends to excel more on the move with less time to think.

Mike Woodson also needs to use Smith more as a pick-and-roll facilitator. Smith is explosive off screens and a good passer while driving to the hole. Overall, the Knicks need more penetration from the perimeter to create easier scoring opportunities.

2. Controlling tempo. When the short-handed Knicks were trailing the Clippers by only seven points at halftime, Chris Paul was asked why the game was so close. He said the Knicks were doing a good job of slowing his team down, and the Clippers needed to pick things up in the second half. Why was that the case to begin with? Because the Knicks knew they had to get after it defensively against the fast-paced Clippers, which is how the Jazz like to play as well.

While Thomas, Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby anchored things down low (they each had a steal or a block), Smith and Jason Kidd combined for three steals in the backcourt. That defensive effort has been there lately, and it will need to continue tonight. The question is: Can the Knicks put the ball in the basket? Even shooting 46.2 percent from downtown won't overcome an overall 35.8 field goal percentage, which was the case on Sunday.

3. Chandler needs to play, period. While Anthony is the Knicks' best scorer, Chandler is arguably their MVP. He does so many little things on the court, on both ends of the floor, that contribute to Knicks wins. Without him down the stretch in any kind of game, it will always be a dogfight for the Knicks.

You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.

Controlling pace is key on Knicks' trip

March, 10, 2013
There was a stretch in early January when the Knicks played the Celtics, Pacers and Bulls and were outmatched by the physicality of the three beasts in the East.

Starting Monday, the Knicks will be tested in a different way against five consecutive difficult opponents: the Warriors, Nuggets, Trail Blazers, Clippers and Jazz.

The challenge? Keeping up with the faster pace, which defines the Western Conference style of play.

The Knicks' offense is the sixth-slowest in the NBA in terms of pace (92.7) -- a measurement of the average number of possessions per 48 minutes by a team. The Nuggets, on the other hand, have the second-fastest pace (97.7) and the Warriors are fifth (97).

[+] EnlargeStephen Curry
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesUp first on the road trip is Stephen Curry, who dropped 54 points on the Knicks on Feb. 27.
Additionally, while the Knicks are second-worst in the league in fast-break points per game (9.0), the Nuggets, Clippers, Jazz and Warriors are all in the top 10. Denver is first in the category at 19.8, led by arguably the speediest point guard in the league, Ty Lawson, and his explosive wing teammates. The other teams also have fleet, big-time floor generals: Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard.

Fueled by that speed and scoring in transition, those teams also capitalize on the energy of their local fans. Each team is much better in its own building than on the road. In fact, the Nuggets are tied with the Heat for the league's best home record (28-3).

On Saturday, Mike Woodson spoke about the importance of controlling pace on the road.

"It's going to be very important," he said. "Denver is just running people out of the gym. I don't know if it has a lot to do with the altitude or what, but they've been great at home. And the Clippers have been great in their building, so I mean, anytime you go on the road and play in hostile environments, you've got to control tempo. You can't get in their type of game, unless it presents itself, but you've got to know when to back away because they're pretty good in those buildings."

Woodson said that to prepare for the faster pace, rest is "the main thing," which holds true for the older Knicks and their recent history of injuries.

"If we got time to get a day or two of practice in, we will, but a lot of this is going to come down to guys getting rest and being ready and more alert," he said. "When you got this many games hitting you like that, if you're not alert, then you're not going to get much accomplished on the floor. So you've got to be committed, you've got to be focused."

Tyson Chandler said that he likes "the personnel of this team" for adjusting to different paces.

"We can play in any game," he said. "We're big, we're physical and we've got enough players to get up and down the court."

He's right about the transition game, but only when the guys commit to defense, which they have been doing recently. While the Knicks don't have a plethora of young run-and-gun players, like their West opponents, they're able to capitalize off making stops through Raymond Felton's and J.R. Smith's open-court aggressiveness, the team's 3-point shooting and Chandler as a terrific trailing finisher.

The name of the game is pace on the West Coast. Can the Knicks keep up?

You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.



Carmelo Anthony
27.4 3.1 1.2 38.7
ReboundsC. Anthony 8.1
AssistsP. Prigioni 3.5
StealsI. Shumpert 1.2
BlocksA. Bargnani 1.2