Jazz Stars Struggle, New York Knicks Get First Win In Utah

Nov 15, 2022, 10:30 PM
Utah Jazz center Kelly Olynyk plays against the New York Knicks (Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
(Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – Kelly Olynyk scored 27 points but got little help from the rest of the Utah Jazz starting lineup in their 118-111 loss to the New York Knicks.

The loss snapped the Jazz’s five-game win streak at home to open the season and extended their overall losing streak to three games.

Jalen Brunson led the Knicks with 25 points, 12 of which came in the fourth quarter when the Jazz were outscored 35-26.

Jazz Aren’t Getting Enough From Top Of Roster

It seems the honeymoon may be ending for the Jazz and Lauri Markkanen.

After averaging 22.7 points for the Jazz during the team’s 10-3 start to the season, Markkenen’s numbers have taken a steep drop over the last three losses.

The Finnish forward’s points have steadily diminished during the losing streak scoring 17 points in Washington, 15 points in Philadelphia, and finally 13 points against the Knicks on Tuesday night.

“The way that we’re playing sometimes the ball just isn’t going to find you every time,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “We put Lauri in a lot of actions, but tonight I think it was just the ball maybe didn’t find him in the right moments.”

But Markkanen isn’t the only problem.

After opening the season on a tear, Jordan Clarkson’s efficiency has taken a steep drop.

The former Sixth Man of the Year shot 44 percent from the floor and 42 percent from the three-point line through the first 12 games of the season, but has seen those numbers drop to 35 percent from the floor his last four games, and 27 percent from three.

Finally, Mike Conley’s recent struggles carried over for a fourth straight game. The veteran guard has connected on just 7-31 from the floor for 22 percent over the stretch including 2-17 from the three-point line for 11 percent.

Despite the cold streak, Conley wasn’t worried about his performance.

“I honestly don’t think about it as much,” Conley said. “I just think about the next shot — I’m going to make the next one — if it don’t go in then it don’t go in, but I’m just going to keep shooting.”

The Jazz 10-Man Rotation

With 16 games now under his belt, it’s clear that Will Hardy is comfortable utilizing a 10-man rotation. Even with veteran forward Rudy Gay out of the lineup against the Knicks, Hardy turned to Simone Fontecchio to fill out the back end of his rotation.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau notoriously runs one of the tightest rotations in the league, often playing his starters in excess of 33 minutes per night.

Prior to the game, Thibodeau discussed the Jazz roster, and the advantages of playing a deeper rotation.

“He’s got a good problem to have,” Thibodeau said Hardy. “He’s got quality players on the bench, and usually that’s what dictates it.”

With the slew of veterans the Jazz got in return for Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, and Bojan Bogdanovic this summer, the roster is littered with true NBA-caliber players.

“Most teams have paired down to nine and eight [players] now,” the Knicks coach said. “But some teams have the quality of depth that they have. Sexton has been a starter, Beasley has started games in this league. So that’s a big plus for them.”

Fontecchio has played sparingly this season but has produced when he’s been on the floor. Against the Knicks, the Italian forward scored nine points on 3-6 shooting, and added four rebounds in 16 minutes.

Hardy faces an interesting dilemma with the last spot in his rotation. Fontecchio produces more statistically than Gay, but the Jazz were outscored by 19 in his limited minutes on the floor.

Gay on the other hand has had underwhelming numbers this year, but his +5.7 plus-minus is the best amongst Jazz rotation regulars this season.

If the Jazz continue to lose games, it will be worth watching how Hardy utilizes his 10th man. Gay doesn’t fit the team’s timeline, but he’s helped the team win.

Fontecchio, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and Ochaci Agbaji have long-term potential on the roster but haven’t proven they can help the team in the win column.

The Jazz Road Isn’t Getting Easier

Now riding a three-game losing streak, the Jazz aren’t getting any relief from the schedule.

The Phoenix Suns come to town on Friday before traveling to face the Trail Blazers on Saturday in Portland.

Next Monday the Jazz travel to Los Angeles to face the Clippers before a pre-Thanksgiving matchup with the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.

After the holiday the Jazz go back on the road for two games against the Golden State Warriors and the Suns.

With the way the Jazz have played over their last three games, Detroit might be the team’s best hope of preventing this losing streak from extending to nine and a sub-.500 record.

Jazz Next Broadcast

The Jazz and Suns will tip off at 7 pm MT in Salt Lake City. The game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. The game will also be streamed on DirecTV Stream and FuboTV.

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