The Utah Jazz’s winning streak started with a loss.
After the New York Knicks rallied from 16 points down to beat the Jazz at Madison Square Garden, Rudy Gobert and his teammates used the defeat as a chance to reassess and reset.
“That loss against the Knicks, I see it as a win,” Gobert said Tuesday, “because that’s when we really understand what we needed to do as a team to be great.”
The Jazz have now won nine games in a row since that loss in Manhattan. Their latest victims: the New York Knicks. In a 108-94 win at Vivint Arena, the Jazz rallied from a 15-point deficit to get a little payback and extended their league-best winning streak to 9.
“It’s starting to show,” point guard Mike Conley said of his team’s resolve and mental toughness. “Tonight was one of those situations where we found ourselves in a hole. Each individual guy just stepped up another notch.”
Royce O’Neale scored a career-high 20 points. Rudy Gobert had 18 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks. Conley, meanwhile, stepped up to score 14 of his 19 points in a pivotal third quarter comeback.
“I’m just getting comfortable in the system,” he said. “Getting comfortable with my guys, picking and choosing when I need to be aggressive.”
O’Neale kicked things off for the Jazz, hitting a pair of 3s and scoring a quick seven points in the first quarter. But the Jazz would struggle after that. Utah went scoreless on seven straight possessions at one point and missed their next 11 3-point attempts in the period.
Meanwhile, an Obi Toppin jumper put the Knicks up 11 late in the first and Utah trailed 27-18 at the end of the quarter.
It was New York guard Austin Rivers who did the most damage against the Jazz, though. Rivers, who took over late in Utah’s loss at Madison Square Garden, was a perfect 10-for-10 from the floor in the first half. His 25 first-half points helped make it a 59-46 Knicks lead at intermission.
Still, Rivers and the Knicks knew they’d be in for a fight.
“This is the hottest team in the NBA,” Rivers said before the game. “Utah is playing better basketball than anybody in the NBA.”
Indeed. The Jazz mounted a rally in the third quarter. The team hit six triples in the period. Bogdanovic drained one of those 3s, tying the game at 69-69 midway through the quarter. The Knicks lead had been cut to just 1 going into the fourth.
” We kept battling and didn’t feel sorry for ourselves that shots weren’t being made,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “… People talk about winning ugly and tonight ugly was really pretty.”
Utah kept up the pressure in the final frame. The Jazz defense tightened and didn’t allow Rivers to score in the second half. When Jordan Clarkson cut to the basket for an and-one layup early in the period, the Jazz had their first lead since early in the first quarter. A short while later, a Georges Niang 3-pointer had padded the advantage to double-digits.
“The first half they seemed like they wanted it more,” Conley said. “But those plays where we were diving on the floor and getting offensive rebounds are Jazz basketball. In the third and fourth quarter, we were able to do that.”
| Hard-fought, but the streak lives on!
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) January 27, 2021
What did the Jazz get from Royce O’Neale on Tuesday night?
“It’s what didn’t we get,” coach Quin Snyder said.
The guard scored a career-high 20 points to go with six rebounds and two assists.
“Defensively, he matched up on Julius Randle, he guarded Rivers for a spell,” Snyder said. “On the offensive end, especially early in the game, he was ready to shoot and knock it down. I thought he made the right reads a lot of the times. When he did drive, there was space and he was poised.”
JAZZ WIN!!! pic.twitter.com/vWZcUYt5oO
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) January 27, 2021
On the one-year anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s death, Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson had the opportunity to reflect on his former teammate. Asked for his favorite memory of the late Bryant, Clarkson pointed to the legend’s final NBA game—a night Bryant scored 60 against the Jazz.
“That’s something that’s set in stone in everybody’s mind,” Clarkson said. “Just seeing him go out like that, having 60, it’s just a moment that I know all the little kids that were watching, anybody around the world that was watching, that’s always going to be stuck in there head. Leaving on a great note like that and showing greatness, that’s etched in the history books and in my brain forever.”
Clarkson credited Bryant with helping elevate not only his game, but the game of Knicks forward Julius Randle, who played on Tuesday night in Salt Lake.
“Our relationship worked really well with Kobe,” Clarkson said. “He was helping both of us tremendously while we were there. Pulling us along, pushing us, bringing us to the gym, shooting the in the mornings, playing one-on-one, everything that you could name. He was a part of that.”
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) January 26, 2021
The Jazz’s homestand continues with a two-game series with Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. The Jazz play Wednesday night at Vivint Arena at 7 p.m.