|Jazz face tall task against Porzingis, Knicks|
NEW YORK -- It is never a good time to lose one of the league's most promising young big men, but the Utah Jazz picked an exceedingly bad time to lose Rudy Gobert for at least a month.
First the Jazz had to contend with Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns - and failed that challenge in a 109-98 loss to Minnesota on Monday night.
Now they'll have to handle Kristaps Porzingis on Wednesday night when they travel to Madison Square Garden for a showdown with Porzingis and the New York Knicks.
Here's how dominant Porzingis has been: He had 20 points and seven rebounds as the Knicks built-and-then-squandered a 23-point lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, and it was considered one of his worst performances of the season. Prior to the dud, Porzingis had games of 34, 28, 40 and 37 points, all in New York victories.
Now down their best post defender and his 14 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks per game, the Jazz will look to counter the Knicks' interior tandem of Porzingis and former Jazz center Enes Kanter with a small-ball lineup ill-suited to the task.
"It's back to what I do," said Derrick Favors, who will play center in Gobert's absence. "I'm ready for it."
Last season, Gobert averaged career-highs with 14 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. Favors had nine points and 10 rebounds in the loss to the Timberwolves.
"This is hard; everybody knows Rudy is a high, high-level player," Utah coach Quin Snyder said. "He anchors our defense in many ways. Our margin for error gets a little slimmer. Our team will adjust. That's all you can do."
New York will look to get back into the win column after a heartbreaking loss to the Cavaliers in a game they controlled much of the night. The Knicks led by 15 heading into the fourth quarter before LeBron James, Kyle Korver and the Cavs roared back, something New York coach Jeff Hornacek called a "learning experience."
"It's going to be a lesson for us to try to finish these games," Hornacek said. "It is not always trying to pull it out in the last three or four minutes of the game. I thought late in the third quarter we had a chance to blow it out a little bit. There are certain lessons we could learn from that and we can get better next time."
Easing New York's burden is the fact that they stay home and will remain home for much of the foreseeable future. In a true scheduling fluke, 15 of the Knicks' first 22 games of the season are in the friendly confines of the Garden, something Hornacek hasn't taken for granted.
How could he? The Knicks are 6-3 at home.
"I've been happy our guys have been winning at home," Hornacek said. "It's given us some confidence after the start we had. The fans have been great for them, they comment on it. They enjoy playing here. It's helped them build some confidence."