Jazz-Knicks Preview

The Associated Press

A much-needed victory may have taken some of the pressure off coach Mike D'Antoni, but in order to record rare back-to-back wins the New York Knicks will have to overcome a big absence.

After his brother was killed early Monday in a car crash in Florida, Amare Stoudemire won't be available when the Knicks face the Utah Jazz later that evening at Madison Square Garden.

New York (9-15) has been one of the biggest disappointments of the NBA season so far. Instead of building on last season's playoff appearance and challenging for the Atlantic Division title, the Knicks have dropped 11 of 14 as speculation grows about D'Antoni's job security.

Little-used Jeremy Lin may have given the embattled coach a reprieve Saturday, coming off the bench to score a career-high 25 points with seven assists and five rebounds to power New York's 99-92 win over New Jersey.

"Jeremy came out and gave us a great spark off the bench, and that was phenomenal for us," Stoudemire said.

The Knicks have only one stretch of consecutive wins this season - a four-game streak from Jan. 6-11 - and they'll be shorthanded as they try to build on Saturday's victory. Stoudemire returned to Florida to be with his family after his 35-year-old brother was killed early Monday in a car accident.

It's unclear when Stoudemire will rejoin the Knicks - a Wednesday visit to Washington is next - but fill-in Jared Jeffries likely won't be the only new starter on the floor Monday. Lin is expected to be in the starting five after his stunning performance Saturday.

Prior to finding his stroke against the Nets, the second-year guard from Harvard had averaged just 3.6 points - making 8 of 20 shots - in nine appearances. He hit 10 of 19 versus New Jersey, and may have a starting spot for the foreseeable future until Baron Davis is fit enough to make his season debut.

"He gives us a good feel," D'Antoni said of Lin. "I had my doubts, but we just stayed with it and he has some of the qualities that we needed."

While Lin is trying to prove he can contribute on a regular basis, Carmelo Anthony is trying to bounce back from another lackluster effort. The star forward made just 3 of 15 shots from the field and finished with 11 points Saturday in New York's third game in as many days.

He had 26 in each of the previous two games, but those ended in losses to Chicago and Boston.

Anthony has been marred by poor performances at times, and he's shooting 39.8 percent from the floor - well off his 45.7 career rate.

He's averaged 31.0 points on 51.5 percent shooting in his last five meetings with Utah (13-9), including a 34-point performance in a 131-109 win at MSG on March 7 to end a four-game slide in the series.

The Knicks and Jazz split two meetings last season, but New York has won six of seven at The Garden.

The Jazz are trying to build on Saturday's 96-87 win over the Los Angeles Lakers after dropping four of the previous six.

Al Jefferson leads Utah with 18.5 points, while his 9.2 rebounds rank second. The center had 18 points and matched a season high with 13 rebounds in the win over the Lakers.

Jefferson is averaging 25.7 points and 9.7 boards in his last three games against the Knicks. He was outstanding in last season's visit to MSG, totaling 36 points and 12 boards.

Earl Watson is trying to continue shaking off a sprained left ankle that sidelined him for Thursday's 119-101 loss at Golden State. The reserve point guard had eight points while dishing out a season-high 11 assists Saturday.

"Man, Earl Watson isn't even supposed to be playing right now, that's the crazy thing about it. He's out there on one leg," forward Paul Millsap said.

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