In a battle between reeling postseason contenders, the New York Knicks will travel to play the Utah Jazz. This is a must-win game for both sides involved, as postseason position will be on the line.
So who will take it?
New York enters this game as cold as any, having lost four consecutive games. The Knicks are now 38-26 overall and 16-16 on the road—numbers that bode poorly considering the Knicks are traveling to play the Jazz.
The Utah Jazz are 34-32 overall and 24-8 during home games. They've also gone 15-12 against the Eastern Conference.
How will it all play out? Let's find out.
Time: Monday, March 18 at 10:30 p.m. EDT
Records: New York (38-26) at Utah Jazz (34-32)
Betting Line: N/A as of Mar. 18 at 1:25 a.m.
New York Knicks Injury Report
Tyson Chandler, Knee Contusion, Questionable
Amar'e Stoudemire, Knee Debridement Surgery, Out
Rasheed Wallace, Fractured Left Foot, Out
Utah Jazz Injury Report
Key Storyline: Breaking a Funk
The New York Knicks are in the midst of a four-game losing streak. Every one of those losses have come on the road, which has pushed the Knickerbockers a full game behind the Indiana Pacers.
The Utah Jazz haven't been much better.
On Feb. 19, the Jazz were 31-24 and firmly in control of the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoff structure. Since then, they've lost eight of their past 11 games and have fallen out of the postseason.
Utah is now a full game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for eighth.
Both teams are in need of a win, as their recent losing pattern has damaged their postseason positioning. In Utah's case, they could miss the playoffs altogether.
As for the Knicks, they're only 2.5 games ahead of the Boston Celtics for seventh in the East.
Key Matchup: Gordon Hayward vs. J.R. Smith
The last time these two teams met, J.R. Smith posted 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting. He made four three-pointers, grabbed six rebounds and dished out three assists.
The New York Knicks defeated the Utah Jazz by a score of 113-84.
On the opposite end, Gordon Hayward posted 13 points on 3-of-8 shooting from the floor. He also converted just 2-of-6 three-point field goals.
That's a formula for failure for the Jazz.
If Utah is to secure this victory, it's imperative that Hayward steps up to provide a scoring spark. Chances are, he'll step up as he's averaging 14.8 points per game at home.
Just don't expect Smith to go down without a fight.
X-Factor: The Crowd
During the 2012 NBA offseason, the NBA surveyed the executives around the league. One of the topics that came about was a question of which team had the best home-court advantage.
Ten percent of general managers said that honor belonged to the Utah Jazz (via NBA.com).
That will be the deciding factor in this one, as the Jazz have become one of the NBA's most dominant home teams. They're 24-9 at home in 2012-13 and have defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors in Utah during the past month.
The Knicks, meanwhile, have lost four consecutive road games. With Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler questionable due to injury, the crowd could rattle a starless Knicks team.
If not, expect them to give the Jazz a motivational boost.
When the New York Knicks travel to play the Utah Jazz, it will be a battle between a reeling road team and a dominant home force. Although the Knicks have proven to be the better all-around squad, circumstances play a role.
Utah rarely loses at home and the Knicks have lost four in a row on the road—the numbers speak for themselves.
Even if Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler are to play, they're unlikely to be at full strength. For that reason, we're inclined to believe Utah will pound it inside with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.
If 'Melo and Chandler are out, that strategy becomes all the more effective.
Furthermore, point guard Mo Wililams is finally back in action after missing 36 games due to injury. After struggling during his first three games back, Williams is averaging 12.7 points during his past three games.
Expect he, Randy Foye and the Utah interior to control the pace as the Utah crowd dictates Utah's dominance.
Utah Jazz 101, New York Knicks 93