SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Tim Hardaway Jr. had his best game Friday night since returning from a leg injury that sidelined him for more than a month.
The New York Knicks needed all of it, too.
Hardaway scored 31 points as the Knicks rallied for a 117-115 victory over the Utah Jazz.
”I think I’m just getting accustomed to everything, getting my feet wet, getting my rhythm back,” he said. ”It’s one game. It felt good. Came here yesterday with some of the guys. Got a lot of shots and a lot of reps up in here. Ran up and down a little bit to get our wind. It really helped us out today. That played a huge part in my individual success and in other guys’ as well.”
Hardaway pulled up for a 3-pointer from the top of the arc and finished the four-point play after a foul, then added a dunk to give the Knicks a 109-100 advantage with 3:21 remaining. The fifth-year guard was 6 for 7 from behind the arc as New York shot 55 percent from 3-point range.
”We were trying to keep him around that 25- to 28-minute range and he was playing really well,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. ”We debated it at halftime whether we should start him in the second half or bring him off the bench. We decided, `Let’s start him and get off to a good start and then try to get him out quicker.”’
The Jazz missed three straight 3-pointers on one possession with less than 30 seconds left that would have tied the game at 115 after a late 11-2 run that included Joe Johnson’s corner 3 and Rudy Gobert’s three-point play.
Courtney Lee’s 13-point third quarter helped the Knicks rebound from a 10-point deficit to take an 85-78 lead into the fourth. Lee and Kristaps Porzingis scored 18 points apiece.
”There were a few actions that they executed well,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. ”We gave up some stuff in transition where we didn’t communicate, and our pick-and-roll defense was not where it needed to be. We weren’t as aggressive or physical as we needed to be. … It wasn’t any one thing. It was too many things.
”They had too much space and when a player gets going, Hardaway in particular, the basket starts to look really big.”
Gobert had 23 points and 14 rebounds in his first game since Dec. 15 due to a sprained knee, but the second-team All-NBA center looked athletic in his return. He also had three blocks.
Rodney Hood had 18 points, while Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio each scored 17.
The Jazz took a 55-49 lead into halftime thanks to an aggressive Hood, who returned to the starting lineup for the first time in nearly a month. A 16-6 stretch highlighted by a pair of twisting layups from Gobert and Derrick Favors’ dunk pushed the margin to 48-38 before the Knicks chipped away right before the break.
”We came out lackadaisical,” Mitchell said about the second half. ”They came out there fighting and holding us and being aggressive. We just kind of let them do that to a certain extent.”
Knicks: Hornacek plans to keep Hardaway on a minutes restriction of about 25 per game during the current seven-game road trip as he continues to work his way back from his injury. He played 27 minutes against Utah.
Jazz: Utah hasn’t won consecutive games since the first week of December. … Hood sat out after bruising his lower left leg late in the game. His status will be updated Saturday.
Gobert played 30 minutes in his return, though Snyder has the big man on a minutes restriction. Snyder wasn’t sure if Gobert would be available Saturday on the second night of a back-to-back. Snyder said it was possible, but the decision would be made later.
Snyder moved Hood back into the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 21. Joe Ingles was sent to the bench for the first time all season. ”We haven’t started games well – that’s no secret,” Snyder said. ”That’s no one guy’s fault. If that’s anybody’s fault, it’s mine. Guys are going to play about the same minutes, they just play it at slightly different times.”
”I wasn’t expecting a jersey retirement anyway.” – Knicks center Enes Kanter on being booed repeatedly.
Knicks: Travel to face Lonzo Ball and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
Jazz: Host DeAndre Jordan and the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.
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