SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Jazz leaned on their tough defense to keep their win streak alive.
Rudy Gobert had 18 points, 19 rebounds and four blocked shots, and the Jazz beat the New York Knicks 108-94 on Tuesday night for their ninth consecutive victory.
“We did a lot of good things that didn’t show up on the scoreboard,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “People talk about winning ugly and tonight ugly was pretty.”
Royce O’Neale scored a career-high 20 points, helping Utah overcome a quiet night for Donovan Mitchell. Mike Conley had 19 points, seven rebounds, and five assists.
Mitchell finished with nine points on 3-for-15 shooting.
Austin Rivers scored 25 points for New York — all in the first half. Julius Randle had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and R.J. Barrett scored 17 in the Knicks’ third straight loss.
New York made just 12 total baskets in the second half on the heels of shooting 55.8% from the field before halftime. The Jazz made numerous hustle plays and forced the Knicks to settle for one tough shot after another.
By the fourth quarter, New York’s offense was thoroughly bottled up. The Knicks scored only 13 points over the final 12 minutes.
“We knew right from the start, Utah’s playing as well as anyone in the league,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “And so I thought our aggressiveness to start the game was very good. And then we didn’t sustain it for 48 minutes. And that’s something we’re still working toward.”
The Jazz trailed by as many 15 points in the first half, but grabbed the lead for good when they opened the fourth quarter with a 20-3 run. O’Neale punctuated the key stretch with three straight baskets, giving Utah a 100-84 lead with 5:19 remaining.
“We kept our focus on the defensive end,” Gobert said. “We didn’t worry about the missed shots. All of the sudden, we got stops and the shots started falling.
Utah endured a cold spell on offense during the first quarter. The Jazz missed 12 of their first 14 shots and shot 2 of 13 from the perimeter during the period. They made only six baskets in the first 12 minutes.
Rivers scored 18 of New York’s first 21 points in the second quarter. His flurry of baskets stopped a Jazz rally. After Utah cut the deficit to 36-32 on back-to-back layups from Joe Ingles and Gobert, Rivers made three 3-pointers to fuel a 12-2 run that extended the Knicks’ lead to 48-34 midway through the quarter.
Rivers went 10 of 10 from the field during the first half, including five 3-pointers. He had a limited impact after halftime once Utah made a point of taking him out of the offense.
“In the second half, they became more physical, they took the fight to us,” Rivers said. “And it just kind of fell apart. They just kept their foot on the pedal, and we weren’t able to get it back. This was the toughest loss of the trip.”
Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic rallied the Jazz, combining for 22 points during the third quarter. Conley made four baskets, assisted on a pair, and hit four free throws during the quarter. Bogdanovic hit a pair of 3-pointers.
Knicks: Alec Burks made his second start of the season and his Knicks career. He finished with nine points and seven rebounds. … Rivers went 0 of 4 from the field after halftime. … New York held Utah to two fast-break points.
Jazz: Mitchell, Conley, and Bogdanovic combined to go 1 of 19 from the field in the first half. … Utah finished with just six turnovers. … Mitchell finished with a season-high eight rebounds.
In his fourth season, O’Neale is averaging a career-best 7.9 points while shooting 45.7% from the field. His burgeoning offensive game is no surprise to teammates who have witnessed the time he has put in to make a greater impact on that end.
“This is the Royce we all know,” Mitchell said. “He’s a dog. He’s going to go out there and work.”
Knicks: Host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.
Jazz: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.
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