- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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So much for that newfound Knicks defense.
Mike D'Antoni's club wrapped up its four-game road trip with a sloppy 131-125 loss to the Utah Jazz.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Knicks, who had played strong defensively in wins over Phoenix and Portland, allowed the Jazz to shoot 58 percent from the field, a season high for a Knicks opponent. They went bucket for bucket with Utah for the majority of the first three quarters, but appeared to run out of gas on the defensive end in the final stanza and ended up allowing their highest opponent point total of the season.
One reason for the lapse? The Utah game was the second of a back-to-back for the Knicks, who fell to 22-16.
The Knicks finished the four-game West Coast trip at 2-2, beating Phoenix and Portland but falling to the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and the perennially contending Jazz.
Still, the Knicks head back to the Garden with 12 road wins, matching the highest road win total of the D'Antoni era (more on that below).
TURNING POINT: Raymond Felton was whistled for an offensive foul when he extended a forearm into Deron Williams with 1:31 to go in the third. At the time, the Knicks trailed 96-92. They'd weathered foul trouble for Amare Stoudemire and Bill Walker earlier in the quarter, but they couldn't keep pace with the Jazz without Felton. With seldom-used Roger Mason and the injured Toney Douglas in the backcourt, the Knicks were outscored 11-5 with Felton on the bench as the Jazz took a 10-point lead before Felton returned with 9:22 to play. The Knicks, on the last day of a six-day road trip, didn't have the legs to come back from the deficit.
DIFFERENCE-MAKER: Shawne Williams single-handedly kept the Knicks in the game with five 3-pointers in the third quarter. He hit a 3 to pull the Knicks within seven with 4:15 to play but they couldn't complete the comeback. The Knicks reserve finished with a career-high 25 points on 7-of-8 shooting from 3-point range.
For Utah, C.J. Miles finished with 24 points in 25 minutes off the bench. Deron Williams, the Jazz point guard, had 24 points and 12 assists.
RAINING 3S IN THE THIRD: The Jazz built a 16-point lead with Stoudemire, Walker and Felton in foul trouble in the third, but the Knicks bounced back thanks to Williams, who shot a blistering 5-for-5 from beyond the arc to bring New York within three. Overall, the Knicks hit 7 of 9 3-pointers after shooting just 2-of-11 from deep in the first half.
SKYWALKER: Walker kept the Knicks within striking distance with 20 points in 15 minutes in the first half. He made 7 of 9 shots and doubled his season high (10 points) set on Tuesday in Portland. Walker hit a 3-pointer late in the second quarter to pull the Knicks within six. Had he not been hot, the Knicks may have been blown out of the building after the first two quarters. Instead, they trailed by eight as the Jazz shot 57 percent from the field and the Knicks shot just 2-of-11 from behind the arc.
COLD SHOULDER: The Knicks got a scare 46 seconds into the game when Stoudemire appeared to tweak his left shoulder on a drive against Paul Millsap. A Knicks trainer took a look at the shoulder and Stoudemire was clearly in pain. The Knicks called timeout, Stoudemire gathered himself and returned to the floor to shoot free throws. Stoudemire finished with 22 points, extending his streak of scoring 20-plus points to 23 games, the fourth-longest streak in club history.
ROGER THAT: Felton started and played with a sleeve on his left ankle after suffering a high ankle injury against Portland on Tuesday. With Douglas, a backup guard, ailing with a left shoulder injury, Mason backed up Felton against Williams and the Jazz. Douglas sprained his left AC joint against San Antonio. He also suffered a sprained right shoulder in the preseason and aggravated that injury in the Knicks' home loss to Miami on Dec. 17.
Mason entered play Wednesday averaging 7.6 minutes per game. Wednesday's appearance against Utah was just his 10th game of the season.
Douglas entered the game late in the third quarter after Felton picked up his fourth foul.
NOT BAD IN BACK-TO-BACKS: The Knicks wrapped up their 10th of 21 back-to-back sets (third of five away-away) with the loss to Utah. They are 5-5 in the first game and fell to 6-4 in the second game (2-1 in away-away) of a back-to-back, recording four sweeps. Last season, the Knicks competed in 18 back-to-back sets, going 6-12 in the first game, 4-14 in the second game, recording two sweeps and having been swept nine times.
They face another tough road back-to-back next Friday and Saturday against San Antonio and Oklahoma City, teams that will be looking for revenge after losing to the Knicks at MSG in their most recent meetings.
ROAD DOGS: The Knicks have 12 road wins in 21 road contests. In 2008-09, D'Antoni's first season as coach, the Knicks needed 80 games -- or 40 road games -- to reach the 12-road win plateau. The finished with 12 road wins that season and just 11 the next season. The next road-win mark in the Knicks' sights? Isiah Thomas' 2006-07 club, which won 14 games away from MSG.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Knicks come home, where they are 8-2 in their past 10 and have won four straight, to face an awful Sacramento Kings (8-27) team Friday.
Sacramento was averaging 10 fewer points per game than the Knicks (107.4 to 97.0) entering play Wednesday. The Kings come to town with a three-game losing streak (they lost both games of a back-to-back against Washington and Boston). The Knicks beat the Kings 113-106 on Nov. 17 to snap a six-game losing streak. They went on to win five straight and eight in a row on the road. They entered that night against Tyreke Evans & Co. at 3-8 and reeling. They have won 19 of 27 since.
The same Suns team that the Knicks beat by 25 comes to town Monday. From there, the Knicks travel to Houston for a road game and then face San Antonio and Oklahoma City in a back-to-back next Friday and Saturday. Both teams lost to the Knicks at home in the past four weeks. Oklahoma City was coming off a back-to-back, but San Antonio was well-rested, making a 128-115 victory by the Knicks all the more impressive.