A different Emmanuel Mudiay leads Utah Jazz over Knicks

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SALT LAKE CITY — Emmanuel Mudiay dismissed any idea that he had any extra motivation playing against his former team for the first time.

Yes, he played in New York last year. And yes, they didn’t offer him another deal. But to him, that’s not what was important.

“I approached this game like any other game. My same routine,” Mudiay said.

If what Mudiay did on Wednesday in Utah’s 124-108 win over the New York Knicks was just “any other game,” the bodes well for the Jazz. Mudiay scored 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting while adding four assists and three rebounds in his most complete performance of the season.

“Obviously, he's aware, we're aware, he was in New York last year, but he didn't force himself on the game,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “More than anybody, he played the right way. He make good decisions, didn't hunt his shot. He played defense. He played every part of the game. Sometimes in a situation like that, you can get focused on your game, he didn't do that. He was focused on our game.”

And because of that, the Jazz (25-12) continued their winning ways. Utah’s win on Wednesday was its seventh straight and 12th in the last 13 games.

Mudiay made search dribbles to find open shooters, he attacked the rim, and was 2 of 4 from the 3-point line. And with Donovan Mitchell being slightly limited due to an illness, according to Bojan Bogdanovic (Mitchell said he was 100% with a smirk), Mudiay played added minutes and was part of the first half closing lineup that turned a six-point lead into a 19-point one at halftime.

“Emmanuel played a hell of a game tonight and I think that’s what we need,” Mitchell said.

It helped, for sure. But it also helped that the Jazz were playing the Knicks.

Utah’s offense has been one of the best in the league over the recent stretch of play, but it looked especially pretty against what New York calls a defense.

The Jazz finished with an offensive rating of 134.7, they shot 54% from teh field and scored 30 or more points in three quarters.

There are near-endless highlights of Mitchell making his way through a string of defenders for incredible layups and dunks. And then there are the highlights when he plays against the Knicks.

In the third quarter, the Utah Jazz star guard easily dribbled around RJ Barrett at the 3-point line and suddenly had an unimpeded lane to the basket. You can probably guess what happened next.

Mitchell took a dribble, rose high and slammed it in with his trademark one-handed slam.

That dunk put an exclamation point on a 10-0 run by the Jazz to start the second half — a run that effectively ended any hope the Knicks had. That gave the Jazz a 29-point lead and from there, it was all but over.

So things went about as expected Wednesday at Vivint Arena. The Jazz had a double-digit lead for much of the game, Joe Ingles simply embarrassed some defenders running the pick and roll, and the Jazz had more than a few highlight offensive plays.

Eight Jazz players scored in double figures led by Mudiay and Bogdanovic’s 20. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert both had 16 for the Jazz.

“First quarter we traded baskets,” Bogdanovic said. “Then in the second, we started to play our defense, our game. By the end, it was kind of an easy game for us.”

And that might have been just what Utah needed. Over the course of their winning streak, they’ve had a long road trip and a few games where the starters needed to play some heavy minutes. No one played over 30 minutes on Wednesday.

“It’s always great to get a little rest,” Mitchell said.

Especially when Mudiay is more than happy to take over.

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