SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—Utah’s Deron Williams has had a double-double in five straight games and his team has won a season-high six in a row.
It’s pretty simple to see the correlation.
Williams had 22 points and 12 assists to lead the Jazz to a 100-89 victory over the short-handed New York Knicks on Wednesday night. The Jazz led by as much as 17, let the Knicks close within three, then finished them off in the final few minutes.
Williams had six points and five assists in the fourth quarter.
“We had chances to blow the game open but we didn’t,” Williams said. “We stopped defending and let them get back in the game. It wasn’t pretty.”
Williams has had at least 12 assists in his last five games and may have made a late campaign to be selected to the Western Conference All-Star team.
“He’s real cool on the court. You know, he runs the show well,” New York’s Jamal Crawford said. “He can score, he can shoot, pass, defend. I like his game a lot.”
After a dismal December, the Jazz went 11-2 in January and lead the Northwest Division. Utah has won 10 straight at home for the first time since 1999 and hasn’t trailed in its last two games.
Crawford scored 26 and Zach Randolph had 23 points for New York. The Knicks kept it close, even after losing starters Eddy Curry and Quentin Richardson early in the first quarter because of flu-like symptoms.
The Knicks were coming off a 120-109 loss to the Lakers on Tuesday in Los Angeles. It’s a short flight to Utah, but back-to-back games without two starters for much of the second was too much for the Knicks to overcome.
“At the end, we just got a little fatigued,” New York coach Isiah Thomas said.
Carlos Boozer scored 17 points and Mehmet Okur finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Jazz. Andrei Kirilenko added 11 points and Ronnie Brewer scored 10 as all five Utah starters scored in double figures.
Utah coach Jerry Sloan said the Jazz got too comfortable with a big lead and started taking some bad shots, leaving the Knicks room to rally at the end and keep it close.
“Those are the type of games that you are glad you win and are glad they’re over,” Sloan said.
David Lee added 14 points and 12 rebounds for New York. But without Curry and Richardson, Utah dominated inside and outscored the Knicks 62-36 in the paint. The Jazz also forced 19 turnovers and scored 29 points off of them.
The Knicks fell to 0-3 on a five-game road trip, but weren’t too discouraged after pushing the Jazz until the final few minutes.
“It’s frustrating, but the one positive is I think we’ve played a lot better basketball the last three or four weeks,” Crawford said. “A month ago, five weeks ago, these three games are games we lose by 25 or 30 points.”
The Jazz opened the game on a 12-2 run and outscored the Knicks 11-2 to start the second period before New York regrouped just before halftime and made a run midway through the third quarter.
Randolph got the Knicks within 57-53—the closest margin since Utah led 6-2 — on two free throws with 7:17 left in the third. But Kirilenko doubled the lead with a 3-pointer, then Brewer stripped the ball from Crawford and tossed a pass ahead to Williams for a layup to put Utah back up 62-54.
The Knicks rallied again later in the third on a three-point play by Randolph and Crawford’s 3-pointer, which cut the lead to 68-60, but Ronnie Price answered that with a left-handed layup while drawing a foul.
New York never got closer than five points the rest of the way, even though the Jazz struggled early in the fourth quarter by going 5-for-16 from the floor. The Knicks stayed within range and cut the lead to 96-89 on two free throws by Crawford with 2:17 left. Boozer then answered with a jumper and Williams hit two free throws to seal it.
Utah’s 10-game home winning streak is its longest since a 10-game streak in 1999. … The Jazz have not trailed since falling behind 71-70 in the fourth quarter of a win over Houston on Sunday. … Paul Millsap scored 15 for Utah. … The Knicks didn’t score until Randolph’s jumper 3:31 into the game.