After pulling apart the Suns in Phoenix and playing competitively as any upcoming team could against the defending champion-Lakers in Los Angeles, the Knicks were definitely making strides during the team's most recent Western Conference road trip.
The 'Bockers bounced back from their loss in LA by pummeling Marcus Camby and the Blazers by a score of 100-86. It was the Knicks' defense, led by Ronny Turiaf, that obviously propelled the team to a victory. However, Turiaf didn't stop there, also having his best game as a Knickerbocker on the other end of the floor as well, finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Turiaf, along with Amar'e Stoudemire (23 points) and Wilson Chandler (17 points) continued to pace the Knicks all the way through the entire game, ceasing at nothing to put the Blazers away. Emphatic dunks by the latter two sealed the victory.
Raymond Felton continued his bid for an all-star selection, tying a Knicks' franchise record with 14 assists and 0 turnovers to go along with his 17 points. Bill Walker regained the stellar shooting stroke he displayed last season, adding a season high 10 points as well.
Walker and the Knicks set to take on the Utah Jazz during the second portion of their back-to-back set on Wednesday night. Though coming in on a high note with a 2-1 record so far on their road trip, the exhausted Knicks were already preparing to enter the match up short handed.
In addition to still missing Danilo Gallinari, the Knicks were expected to sit Toney Douglas, who is still nursing a nagging shoulder injury.
Unfortunately for the Knicks, their exhaustion showed and the Jazz set to take advantage of it from the very beginning. The game looked most similar to the team's prior contest vs. the Lakers, with the Knicks behind early and forced to play "catch-up" all the way through.
As much resilience as this season's Knicks continue to show on a daily basis, Deron Williams and the Jazz were just too much. Williams and his Jazz teammates were scoring at will, strongly taking the ball to the hoop and drawing numerous fouls from the Knicks. The Jazz seemed to take it to the Knicks all game long, and the team certainly felt it.
Coach Mike D'Antoni was forced to sit Stoudemire, Felton, and Turiaf for varied durations of the game, all due to foul trouble.
That being said, the men in orange and blue kept hope alive with 20 first half points from Walker, who continued his climb back into the rotation. Shawne Williams, the team's comeback player of the year, also continued to impress with a 16-point third quarter, finishing with a career high 25 points off the bench. He made 7 three-point field goals en route.
Besides those seemingly fresh legs, Stoudemire, Felton, Fields and company appeared run down (and furthermore, locked down, at times) by the Jazz defense.
With Felton wincing (likely due to an ankle injury that occurred vs. Portland), the Knicks' turned to seldomely-used veteran Roger Mason Jr. off the bench. Fearing the game was slipping out of reach, however, the team also ultimately turned to Douglas as well (though in limited minutes).
Finishing 2-2 on such a road trip is not a bad sign for the Knicks, who now stand at 12-9 on the road (one more road win than all of last season). The team looked dominant in two victories, yet still competitive in two losses.
They will look to build on the positives as the Knicks return home to host the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.