This has been a more than miserable road trip for the New York Knicks. At least it's one game from being over.
With their Atlantic Division lead dwindling, the injury-riddled Knicks will try to salvage the finale Monday night against the Utah Jazz.
New York (38-26) hasn't been able to offer much resistance in losing the first four games of the trip, averaging only 81.8 points - 17 below its season average - with each defeat by at least 13 points.
That lack of offense isn't a surprise with Carmelo Anthony playing one full game on the swing before he left Wednesday's 23-point loss at Denver in the third quarter with a knee injury. Fellow All-Star Tyson Chandler bruised his left knee in that game and also has sat out the past two games.
The four-game skid matches the team's season high and has allowed Brooklyn to climb within one game of the Atlantic lead.
"We're all professionals, and sometimes you're going to play short-handed, so you've got to compete," Jason Kidd said. "The biggest concern is just our health. We've got to get healthy first and go from there. But there's no guarantee those guys are going to come back, so we've got to play with the guys we have."
Missing the NBA's second-leading scorer in Anthony and seventh-best rebounder in Chandler again was too much for the Knicks to overcome in Sunday's 93-80 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. J.R. Smith led the way with 17 points but shot 4 of 20 as part of New York's 38.8 percent effort from the field. Kenyon Martin and Kurt Thomas, both forced into the starting lineup due to all the injuries, combined for 14 rebounds but totaled six points on 3-of-11 shooting.
New York also is still without Amare Stoudemire, who will be sidelined at least six more weeks after recently undergoing surgery on his right knee.
"We know we're a few men down and we can make excuses, but we're not going to make excuses, man," Martin said. "Guys have pride. We're going to compete every night, no matter who's playing for us. It's tough."
Smith is clearly the team's best offensive option without Anthony, but he continues to be wildly inconsistent. He scored 33 points in Thursday's loss to Portland after totaling 24 on 8-of-23 shooting in the trip's first two games.
Now the Knicks face the Jazz (34-32), the last team they beat. Smith scored 24 points and reserve Steve Novak had a season-high 20 in a 113-84 rout March 9 that completed Utah's 0-4 trip.
That was New York's third straight win in the series, but it has lost five in a row in Utah since a 73-62 victory Nov. 14, 2005.
The Jazz have bounced back to win two of three - both at home - since losing in New York and continue to battle the Los Angeles Lakers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Gordon Hayward led five players in double figures with 17 points in his first start since November, helping Utah to a 90-84 victory over Memphis on Saturday. Mo Williams had 13 points and six assists in his sixth game since missing 32 with torn ligaments in his shooting hand.
"We got to grit and grind," Williams said. "I can steal that from Memphis because we are a replica of them."
Saturday's win was Utah's first against a team with a winning record since beating Golden State on Feb. 19.
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