Once again, Utah is making a midseason climb in the Western Conference standings.
The Jazz have won 11 of their past 12 games heading into Wednesday's meeting with the New York Knicks. Utah has begun to blossom into the dominant team most experts anticipated seeing before the season.
Defensively, the Jazz have posted a 107.9 defensive rating over their last 12 games. They are doing their best work in defending transition baskets. Utah has allowed 10.5 fast-break points per game in that stretch.
Offensively, the Jazz have a 116.6 offensive rating over their past dozen games. Utah is boasting an effective field goal percentage of 57.6 percent and has been methodical and efficient in pulling away from teams as games progress.
"We're just getting better as a group, knowing where to go," forward Joe Ingles told the official team website. "We've got an unselfish team. We move the ball. We play together, and we're connected. It's a fun group to play with."
Utah closed out a successful three-game road swing on Monday with a 128-126 victory over New Orleans. Bojan Bogdanovic led the Jazz with a season-high 35 points on 11-of-21 shooting.
The Pelicans had a chance to tie it when Brandon Ingram drove to the rim in the final seconds. Ingram's layup attempt never made it past the outstretched hand of Rudy Gobert. The dramatic finish secured Utah's sixth straight victory.
"We've been able to play in different ways when we've needed to," Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said.
The Knicks face the tough task of trying to take down red-hot Utah on the final leg of a four-game Western Conference road swing. They have dropped the first three, losing to the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers over a five-day stretch.
New York remains a team in a bit of flux.
Trade rumors are heating up for leading scorer Marcus Morris, who joined the team on a one-year deal, especially with Julius Randle emerging as a bigger part of the offense in recent games. Morris did not play against the Lakers because of a sore neck. Rookie guard RJ Barrett has shown promise at times but has not developed consistency. Backup forward Kevin Knox has taken a step backward after a solid rookie season.
Building consistency on the court has become a key focus for a young team trying to find a path out of the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
"The big thing we can control is what kind of effort, what kind of consistency are we playing with and are we playing to an identity," Knicks coach Mike Miller said on the team's website after Sunday's 135-132 loss to the Clippers. "That's what we're trying to control right now."
Things quickly spiraled out of New York's control in a 117-87 loss to the Lakers on Tuesday night.
The Knicks shot just 38.9 percent from the field and committed 17 turnovers. Los Angeles took full advantage of those offensive struggles, scoring 24 points off turnovers. New York also allowed 32 fast-break points, which helped the Lakers in shooting 50 percent from the field.
Utah swept both games with New York last season by an average margin of 26.5 points. Gobert averaged 21.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in those contests.
Wednesday's game will mark the first game for backup Jazz guard Emmanuel Mudiay against his former team. Mudiay averaged a career-best 14.8 points on 44.6 percent shooting a year ago in his only full season with the Knicks.
--Field Level Media
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