Despite big games from Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony, the Utah Jazz outlasted the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
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In what was an early tip-off for the team, the Utah Jazz did battle with the New York Knicks at MSG on Sunday morning. Not only did the game launch Utah’s first, big road trip of the season, but it marked Gordon Hayward‘s first live game action of the 2016-17 season.
After missing several weeks with a broken finger, Hayward’s return to the Jazz lineup couldn’t have come any sooner.
The Jazz got off to a rocky start and Knicks stars Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis had huge nights for the home team, but Hayward and the Jazz were able to hang on for a 114-109 win over a team coached by former Jazz star Jeff Hornacek.
Utah struggled out of the gate, hitting just 31.8 percent of their first-quarter field goals. Meanwhile, Porzingis proved to be a match-up nightmare for the Jazz, scoring the ball at will to help New York build a double-digit lead.
He and Anthony were a two-headed monster for New York all night long, combining to score 56 points on 58 percent shooting for the Knicks. Derrick Rose also managed to turn the clock back, scoring 18 points, dishing out eight assists and inciting chants from the crowd at the Garden.
Despite the rough start, the Jazz picked up the effort level throughout the game and played well offensively. The Jazz made 63 percent of their shots in the second half, closed strong with 36 fourth quarter points and took care of the basketball, committing just 10 turnovers.
Although he struggled with his shot, Hayward looked to be in mid-season form in his first game back from injury. The Jazz star scored 28 points and grabbed five board while playing without restriction. He was particularly strong at the free throw line, making all 14 of his attempts.
George Hill had the kind of solid effort that has become his standard, dropping 23 points, nine assists and ZERO turnovers. Rodney Hood added 18.
Hayward’s return also allowed Joe Johnson to play in the bench role the team had envisioned for him over the summer. It broke a streak of 983 consecutive starts for the seven-time All-Star. He responded by scoring 10 points and hitting key shots down the stretch.