I thought tonight we outplayed them the entire game and then kind of the last six minutes, we just fell apart. —Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward
NEW YORK — During his pregame interview, Derek Fisher told reporters he had a hard time watching the replay of the Knicks’ game in Utah last month.
It’s no wonder. The Jazz KO’d the Knicks in Vivint Arena by 21 points.
“I had to put two pieces of tape on the bottom of the screen so that I did not see the score,” the Knicks coach said. “Hopefully, we can be a little closer tonight.”
This one was a lot closer — and Jazz coach Quin Snyder might be the one who tapes his screen when reviewing the rematch.
Despite having a decent lead in the fourth quarter, Utah lost for the second straight game in extended play, getting beaten by New York 118-111 in overtime at Madison Square Garden.
This game was completely different than the 106-85 victory the Jazz earned over the Knicks on Dec. 9 at Vivint Arena.
Unfortunately for the Jazz, it was a bit too similar to Monday’s double-overtime loss at Charlotte.
“It’s definitely emotional losses, games we feel like we have a chance (to win) and for whatever reason, we just lose it down the stretch,” Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward said. “I thought tonight we outplayed them the entire game and then kind of the last six minutes, we just fell apart.”
Utah, now 18-24, led by as many as 13 and took a 10-point advantage early in the fourth quarter. But the Jazz seemed to almost helplessly watch that lead slowly dwindle away as Carmelo Anthony, Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo and Derrick Williams went to work.
Anthony put the Knicks up 83-82 with a dunk at the 5:11 mark, and the teams played hot potato with the lead for a while after that.
New York seemed to have landed a knockout punch against the Jazz when Langston Galloway, of all people, drained a 3-pointer for a 95-90 lead with 36.2 seconds remaining in regulation.
To the Jazz’s credit, they fought back, as they so often do.
Trey Burke responded with a triple 10 seconds later and, after another Melo dunk, Rodney Hood stepped back to sink a trey with 10.6 remaining.
Knicks rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis, who had a quiet game in Utah, became the hero (hitting two free throws) before almost becoming the goat (fouling out by crunching Gordon Hayward behind the 3-point line).
Hayward hit all three foul shots — and Melo missed the ensuing game-winning attempt — to force overtime.
“It was a lot better than the Memphis game when I missed the last one,” said Hayward, reminiscing about the end of the Jazz’s 89-88 loss to Memphis last April when he hit two straight free throws and missed the game-tying one with 0.1 seconds left. “I just stepped up and knocked them down.”
Swish, swish, swish, in fact.
Hayward returned the favor to New York by committing turnovers — a bad pass and a travel — on the Jazz’s first possessions in overtime.
The Jazz still tied it up again on a Rodney Hood layup with 2:49 remaining in OT, but the Knicks took control for good with a 10-3 run.
“I thought a level of grit and mental toughness is required to persevere in those situations,” Fisher said, crediting his Knicks (22-22). “Utah is a really solid basketball team and they kept playing the game and I thought our guys kind of regardless of what happened to us — good or bad, fouls and other situations — kept playing and finding ways to make the necessary plays to win.”
The Jazz showed grit to force the overtime, as they did in Charlotte. It’s the mental toughness part that Utah seems to be lacking from a team that’s missing key players (injured Derrick Favors, Alec Burks and Dante Exum) and has lost seven of 10.
“We’re a young team,” Hayward said. “We’ve got to learn from these, try to take something positive from it, but it’s definitely frustrating.”
Snyder was disappointed that the Jazz defense fizzled after taking a 48-37 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The loss spoiled strong offensive outings for Hood (29 points, including 5-10 from 3-point range) and Hayward (27 points, including 10-10 from the free-throw line).
The Jazz remain in New York for a Friday night showdown with the Brooklyn Nets before wrapping up this four-game road trip Saturday in D.C.
For New York, Anthony finished with 30 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, Lopez contributed 22 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks, Williams added 18 points and Porzingis had 16 points and three blocks.
Utah outrebounded the Knicks 40-38, but Lopez and Williams each had big offensive rebounds in the overtime session that led to points in the decisive run.
“We played a great first half. We talked about what the game would become in the second half, that they were going to raise their physicality, and they did,” Snyder said. “The game got very, very physical. We didn’t respond well. We have to get tougher. That’s the one thing that happened on our defensive glass — we didn’t rebound. We got hurt in the offensive end, just not being tough enough.”