Tom Thibodeau explains why Knicks lost to Jazz

In only the second game since 1953, and the only seventh game in NBA/BAA history, where both teams scored on 17 two-pointers or fewer (per Basketball-Reference), the Utah Jazz kept the New York Knicks off the glass to run away with a 108-93 win Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

The Jazz hit only 17 two-point shots while the Knicks made only 15. But the bigger story was the Jazz held the Knicks, the third-best rebounding team in the league, to only 37 rebounds (nearly 10 below their average). It was only the 11th time the Knicks failed to grab at least 40 rebounds this season. And the biggest story of the night was Donovan Mitchell, a Westchester native and a Knicks trade target, put on a show.

“The thing is, they’re a really good team. So you got to play for 48 minutes. We didn’t do that,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We fell short.”

Indeed, they fell short as Mitchell scored six of his game-high 36 points down the stretch to save the Jazz from a collapse after the Knicks’ bench cut a 10-point deficit and pulled within four, 93-89, with 5:19 remaining.

The Knicks held Rudy Gobert to a single-digit rebound for the first time since Feb. 20, but the Jazz still outrebounded them by a dozen, 49-37.

Gobert finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, and four blocked shots. Despite a rare off-night from Gobert by his standards, he still outclassed Knicks centers. Mitchell Robinson again shrunk against one of the elite big men in the league. He could only produce four points and three rebounds in more than 25 minutes. Rookie center Jericho Sims was scoreless and grabbed six rebounds in more than 21 minutes.

“I thought it was one of the few times I just felt we didn’t rebound the ball well tonight. There were a lot of 50-50 balls that we didn’t get to. We knew they were going to shoot a lot of threes. Covering the elbows is important, and they beat us to those,” Thibodeau said. “That hurt us. That got them going. If you don’t rebound, it’s going to be hard to win.”

The Jazz made 17 of 46 three-pointers, with Mitchell going 7 of 12. The Knicks kept in step, sinking 16 of 40, with Evan Fournier and RJ Barrett combining for 9 of 18 three-pointers. But the Knicks could not survive Julius Randle’s stinker — 13 points on an ugly 6 of 21 shooting and 1 of 6 from deep. Randle did grab a game-high 11 rebounds, but he was a step slow that epitomized the Knicks’ overall play.

After Barrett and sophomores Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin conspired in an 8-2 run that gave the Knicks a shot at scoring an upset, Randle and the rest of the starters came in, and it went downhill from there. Randle missed a wide-open layup, committed a turnover, and a foul sandwiched by a Fournier foul to kill any hopes of completing a Knicks comeback.

Mitchell took over for the Jazz.

“When you have a guy like [Donovan] Mitchell, who’s going to require a lot from you — you’re going to be blitzing. [Rudy] Gobert can put a lot of pressure on the rim and then [Jordan] Clarkson as well. He’s a big-time scorer,” Thibodeau said.

“When the two of them are on the floor, you got two guys that you really got put two on to, which will spread you out, and that probably hurt us some with the rebounding because you’re in rotation. It requires high energy, and I felt like, as a team, we were behind tonight.”

The Filipino-American guard Clarkson added 23 points, 18 in the first half, off the bench.

The loss snapped the Knicks’ two-game win streak and kept them five games behind the 10th seed Atlanta Hawks with 11 games left. The Knicks will host the Hawks Tuesday in a match that could seal their inevitable fate this season.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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