New York went 23-59 last season to finish with the worst record in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks (22-28) again would miss the playoffs if the season ended this weekend—they are currently 10th overall in the Eastern Conference—but are creeping closer to .500 after winning their last two games.
Reaching last season’s victory total before the All-Star break might not be too easy, however, with all of New York’s games being on the road. After facing Northwest Division-leading Utah (32-17), the team visits the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday and plays the following night at Golden State.
“You hate to look at it like that, but that’s crazy,” Knicks guard Jamal Crawford said. “I think we’ll definitely have that win total by the break. We’re a better team.”
Stephon Marbury scored 12 of his 15 points during a 24-4 run to open the second half after New York had trailed by 10 at halftime.
“It was needed,” Marbury said. “At that point we didn’t have anything going so I just took it upon myself to start being more aggressive than I was in the first half.”
David Lee added 16 points and 10 rebounds to notch his eighth double-double in 12 games for New York, which can match a season high with a third straight victory on Saturday.
Lee and the 6-foot-11 Curry, averaging 23.0 points in his last eight games, look to take advantage of a Utah team that could be missing two members of its starting frontcourt. Carlos Boozer remains sidelined with a fractured knee and forward Andrei Kirilenko is day-to-day with back spasms.
The Knicks take a five-game win streak against the Jazz into Salt Lake City, where the they have won four of their last five games. Marbury’s last-second layup in overtime gave New York a 97-96 home win over Utah on Dec. 18.
Since a season-high four-game skid in January, the Jazz have won eight of 11. That stretch includes six wins over teams with winning records, including three current division leaders.
Utah’s current three-game win streak includes victories over San Antonio, Phoenix and Chicago.
Okur, who scored 12 of Utah’s final 14 points, is averaging 24.5 points and 9.8 rebounds in four games since Boozer has been sidelined.
“I have confidence in my shots. So do my teammates and coach,” Okur said. “If they need me, I’ll be there for them.”
Williams also has provided a spark, averaging 19.5 points and 11.4 assists over the last eight games.
“You have to have players who have the ability to get someone the ball,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “They switch on (Williams) and Memo has a smaller guy on him. That’s the way basketball is. You gamble on one thing and something else comes up.”
Utah won 14 of its first 16 home games this season, but is 4-4 in its last eight games at EnergySolutions Arena.