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Smith lifts short-handed Knicks past Jazz, 90-83

Updated at: 03/19/2013 4:09 AM
By LYNN DeBRUIN

(AP) SALT LAKE CITY - J.R. Smith scored 20 points, Raymond Felton had 19 and the short-handed New York Knicks defeated the Utah Jazz 90-83 Monday night, snapping a four-game losing streak.

The Knicks (39-26) dropped games at Golden State, Denver, Portland and the Los Angeles Clippers by an average margin of 20 points, but salvaged the last game of their trip with the gutsy win over the turnover-prone Jazz (38-27).

New York remains atop the Atlantic Division and stayed a game ahead of the Nets for the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

New York was without leading scorer Carmelo Anthony, who practiced earlier Monday and indicated his right knee feels better since he had fluid drained. New York also remained without center Tyson Chandler, bothered by a strained neck muscle, and forward Amare Stoudemire, who recently underwent knee surgery.

Smith had just two points at halftime on 1-of-6 shooting but got in the lane and to the line, making nine of 10 free throws and a 20-footer with 2:36 remaining that sealed it as the Jazz went cold.

Gordon Hayward led Utah with 17 points, Paul Millsap had 12 and Al Jefferson 10, but the Jazz shot 38 percent.

The Knicks got a defensive boost from veteran forward Kurt Thomas, who wasn’t even sure he would play after X-rays showed a bone spur in his right foot. He played 27 minutes, finishing with six points, three rebounds and three blocks. He will be re-evaluated after an MRI in New York on Tuesday.

Smith, who helped the Knicks beat up on the Jazz on March 9 right after they learned Stoudemire had been lost, scored 10 points in the third quarter as the Knicks took a 66-63 lead.

Chris Copeland’s scoop shot capped a 6-0 run by New York early in the third, but the Jazz came right back, with Hayward hitting back-to-back 3-pointers and Jefferson’s tip-in giving Utah a 54-50 lead. The Knicks countered with an 8-0 run, Thomas’ block on Jefferson setting up Felton’s alley-oop pass to Smith for a dunk.

With so many big men out or hurting, Knicks coach Mike Woodson opted for a smaller lineup, one he thought would boost the tempo and offset Utah’s front-court advantage. Rookie guard Pablo Prigioni made his first NBA start, finishing within three points, three assists and two rebounds.

Smith didn’t start but finished strong, with eight points in the fourth quarter.

Both teams had plenty to play for Monday, the Knicks trying to save face after their skid and the Jazz entering the night a game behind the Lakers for the eighth and final Western Conference spot.

The game was sloppy as they get early, with 24 turnovers in the first half, including 14 by the Jazz leading to 21 Knicks points.

The Jazz shot 53 percent in the first quarter but missed eight of their last nine shots.

The Jazz held a 46-34 rebounding edge against the shorter Knicks, but New York won the battle in the paint, 34-22, and on the break, 12-5.

New York took a 42-36 lead late the second thanks to a 12-7 run, sparked by Thomas’ 18-footer and back-to-back 3-pointers by Iman Shumpert.

But the Jazz closed the half on an 8-0 run. Mo Williams’ steal from Copeland set up Hayward for a fast-break layup. Williams then drained a 19-foot jumper at the buzzer as Utah took a 44-42 lead into the break.

The Knicks led 23-21 after one thanks to Felton’s nine-point, two-steal quarter.

NOTES: The early highlight for Utah was a powerful dunk by F Marvin Williams. ... The Jazz held a 22-13 rebounding edge in the first half, with eight in 10 minutes by Derrick Favors. ... Hayward had a career-high four blocks, including one from behind of Knicks F Kenyon Martin.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)