SALT LAKE CITY – Emmanuel Mudiay has never lacked confidence, though the former seventh overall draft pick knew he could get better.
Mudiay scored a season-high 20 points against his former team and Rudy Gobert added 16 points and 16 rebounds to power the Utah Jazz to a 128-104 win over the short-handed New York Knicks on Wednesday.
“I thought I was a pretty smart player until I came here. Everybody told me what kind of coach Quin (Snyder) was before I came here, so I bought in from day one,” said Mudiay, who believes his basketball IQ has risen a few points.
Despite averaging a career-high 14.8 points for the New York Knicks last season, the improvements and nuanced touches he’s added to his game were all on display against the Knicks.
“He didn’t force himself on the game. More than anybody, he played the right way. He made good decisions,” Snyder said.
Mudiay played for the Knicks last season before signing with the Jazz in the summer and “playing the right way” wasn’t a common descriptor of Mudiay’s game. He figured he’d be the backup in Utah but he came to get coached. Against the Knicks he made 8 of 12 shots, added four assists and played solid defense.
“I now know when to get my own and when to get everybody involved. I think that’s what a point guard needs to do,” Mudiay said.
Bojan Bogdanovic also scored 20 points and Donovan Mitchell had 16 in limited minutes for Utah, which has won seven straight and 12 of 13.
“For (Mudiay), it’s just a matter of taking his time being patient. He’s always aggressive getting to the rim. But now he’s finding guys too,” Mitchell said.
Frank Ntilikina had 16 points in 19 minutes and Bobby Portis added 13 points and a season-high 13 rebounds for New York.
The Jazz are making the most of a soft stretch of the schedule where most opponents are under .500, but none have been quite as hapless as the current Knicks.
Portis was fined $25,000 by the NBA earlier Wednesday for recklessly making contact above the shoulders of an airborne shooter in the Knicks’ 117-87 loss at the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.
He started against Utah as leading scorer Julius Randle missed the game for personal reasons and, again, was whistled for a flagrant foul. This time it was ruled a Flagrant Foul 1 as he whacked Bogdanovic across the forehead on his way to the basket.
Marcus Morris was out with a sore neck and Dennis Smith Jr. sat with an oblique strain, decimating the Knick bench.
On a back-to-back and last game of a four-game road trip — all losses — the Knicks looked tired and outmatched.
“We’re in the mountains. You can’t breathe,” RJ Barrett said.
Behind Gobert’s 14 points and nine rebounds in the first half, the Jazz sprinted to a 72-53 lead at the break and were never challenged the rest of the way.
“We had difficulty getting to spots at times, obviously, and I give them credit. Their defense was good. They dictated a lot of those things,” New York interim coach Mike Miller said.
Since Miller implemented more spacing and a quicker pace, the Knicks are scoring efficiently, even scoring 132 in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on this trip and 143 against the Atlanta Hawks three weeks ago.
Spurs 129, Celtics 114
In Boston, DeMar DeRozan had 30 points to lead San Antonio past the hosts
The Spurs scored 22 of the first 25 points and held on through a slightly more competitive — and controversial — second half.
Kemba Walker returned after missing three games with the flu and was ejected with back-to-back technical fouls when he argued a non-call in the third quarter. A full bottle or cup was thrown from the stands, landing in front of the San Antonio bench; no one was hit. The game was delayed briefly while the court was cleaned.
The hubbub — Celtics coach Brad Stevens also was given a T — slowed a Boston rally that cut what had been a 22-point deficit to 76-69.
Lonnie Walker IV added 19 points for the Spurs.
Gordon Hayward scored 18 points and Jaylen Brown had 16 for the Celtics.
Boston has lost two in a row for just the third time this season.
Rockets 122, Hawks 115
In Atlanta, James Harden scored 41 points, including 22 in the first quarter, to lead Houston over Trae Young and the Hawks.
Harden had 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his second straight triple-double.
Young had 42 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. He and Harden are the first players to post 40-point triple-doubles in the same game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Raptors 112, Hornets 110 (OT)
In Charlotte, Serge Ibaka made two free throws with 5.1 seconds left in overtime and finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds as banged-up Toronto edged the Hornets.
Terence Davis also had 23 points and 11 boards, OG Anunoby added 19 points and Kyle Lowry had 15 points and nine assists while having to play 43 minutes due to injuries. Patrick McCaw added 13 points and 11 assists as the Raptors avoided taking losses on back-to-back nights for the first time since Dec. 26-27, 2017.
Terry Rozier led Charlotte with 27 points.
In Other Games
Heat 122, Pacers 108
Magic 123, Wizards 89
Nuggets 107, Mavericks 106
Pelicans 123, Bulls 108
Bucks 107, Warriors 98