SALT LAKE CITY — It took a while, but the Utah Jazz’s present ultimately delivered on a night the team was honoring its past.
With many members of the 1997 Western Conference Finals squad in town 20 years after the team gave the franchise its first trip to the NBA Finals, Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward stepped up big down the stretch to lift the Jazz over the New York Knicks 108-101.
Gobert scored a career-high 35 points with 13 rebounds and four blocks to lead the way, while Hayward overcame a rough first three quarters to finish with 19 points. George Hill, Joe Johnson and Raul Neto finished in double figures as well. The win snapped the Jazz's three-game losing streak.
Gobert's shot chart from tonight rules pic.twitter.com/L02XH6toU8— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) March 23, 2017
"He was really, really good," head coach Quin Snyder said of Gobert. "I think he competed. Obviously his size and his length were a huge factor. It was just a very, very excellent effort in a lot of ways on his part. If he doesn't play that way, we don't win."
With the game tied at 87 with 6:13 remaining, Utah went on an 11-0 run over the next three minutes to take control, and then held on to move its record to 44-28 on the year.
Utah widened its advantage for the fourth seed in the Western Conference to a game over the Los Angeles Clippers. The Jazz actually could have clinched a playoff berth with a win and a Denver Nuggets loss over the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the Nuggets picked up the win.
After a lopsided first half at the free-throw line, Utah wound up making three more from the charity stripe than New York. The Jazz had 12 more points in the paint, 10 more rebounds and five fewer turnovers.
Through three-and-a-half quarters, it appeared as though Utah might squander its fourth consecutive contest. The Jazz trailed by 10 less than four minutes into the game and eight at the end of the first quarter as the Knicks shot 59 percent from the field.
Most of the second quarter was the same, as the Knicks didn’t allow Utah to get within six, and led by 13 with 4:31 to go. The Jazz, however, pulled to within four at halftime 55-51 after Rudy Gobert deflected a Courtney Lee pass near halfcourt and coasted in for a hammer dunk. At the break, New York had a seven-point advantage from the foul line and was plus-six in rebounding.
Derrick Rose, Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony had a combined 34 points at the time, while Gobert’s 17 points were key since Hayward had just five on 2-of-10 shooting.
"I don't like our energy," Snyder said. "It showed up early in terms of just some breakdowns...every significant area where we work and I know we have habits, I know how much we've invested in those habits, so when that happens, that just tells me we're not in the right place mentally."
With the game tied at 63 with 4:53 remaining in the third quarter, Utah took the lead 35 seconds later on a Neto layup. The Jazz stretched the lead to five before the Knicks closed the frame on an 8-0 run to take a 75-72 edge heading into the fourth frame.
Following a back-and-forth opening five minutes, Hayward and Gobert scored the next nine points and the New York offense fell apart as Utah took control.
Porzingis wound up leading the Knicks, who fell to 27-44, with 24 points.
Incidentally, the Jazz’s next opponent in their quest for both a playoff berth and homecourt advantage in the first round will come against the Clippers on Saturday in the City of Angels. It will be the final time the teams, who will likely meet in the first round regardless of seeding, will meet in the regular season.
Should Los Angeles win, they’ll take the head-to-head season series three games to one.
Tipoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. MT.