Jazz vs. Knicks preview: Reeling Utah visits MSG


On the brink of blowing their hold on the No. 8 seed in the West, the Jazz badly need a victory over the Knicks on Saturday night.

Hoping to stop the reeling with a possible playoff appearance hanging in the wind, the Utah Jazz visit the New York Knicks on Saturday night. Having lost three straight and six of their last seven, the Jazz's hold on a playoff spot has gone from solid to tenuous.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Jazz were had a healthy lead on the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference, closing in on the Golden State Warriors and the sixth seed in the standings. One brutal streak later, Utah is just a half-game ahead of L.A. for the eighth seed entering a game against one of the league's better teams.

Luckily for the Jazz, New York will be playing with a banged-up crew Saturday night.

At this point, both Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire are labeled as game-time decisions against Utah, potentially leaving the Knicks with some major holes to fill Saturday night. The team has played well in Anthony's absence so far, but losing Stoudemire as well would be a tough blow to the team.

Since losing Anthony to a knee injury earlier this week, the Knicks have split a pair of games, though they lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder by just one point Thursday night.

These two teams played just one game last season, a 99-88 Knicks win at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 6. Back during the era of Linsanity, Jeremy Lin led New York to a win in that game with 28 points and eight assists while playing 45 minutes.

Scoring sans Melo

When the Knicks lose Anthony, it's pretty obvious to say that his scoring ability is the most difficult thing to replace. As solid as he is in other areas, Anthony is a superstar simply because his ability to score when necessarily is such a unique skill.

With that said, if the Knicks are without both Anthony and Stoudemire on Saturday, getting buckets will be a far more difficult proposition than usual for New York. Most likely, J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton would be tasked with picking up a good portion of the scoring load, but are they capable of that?

One way of offsetting Anthony's absence is to crush teams from three-point range. That's something New York is capable of doing, as Posting and Toasting, SB Nation's Knicks blog, notes. Additionally, without Anthony in the lineup this season, both Felton and Smith have seen pretty solid boosts in their scoring numbers.

In games without Melo this season, Felton has 22.5 points per game and Smith is averaging 21.9 points per game, both well above their respective numbers with him in the lineup. It's unclear if they can keep it up, and they're certainly not as efficient, but these guys can get hot and carry an offense from time to time.

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