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Utah Jazz vs New York Knicks

Utah (2-4) at New York (1-6)

The New York Knicks’ continued struggles are hardly a big surprise, but the Utah Jazz certainly weren’t planning on such a slow start.

The Jazz will face more challenges during a tough four-game road trip, but they’ll hope to begin with a victory Monday night at Madison Square Garden against the sputtering Knicks.

Utah (2-4) has averaged 51 wins over the last three seasons, but it has not looked like a playoff team during its lackluster start, which hit a new low with a 104-99 home loss to Sacramento on Saturday.

The defeat was especially surprising considering that Utah was 33-8 at home last season while the Kings had the worst record in the NBA. The Jazz, though, were outscored 30-13 in the third quarter and allowed Sacramento to shoot 11 of 19 from 3-point range in the game.

“It was a bad game for us, period,” point guard Deron Williams(notes) said. “We had a 15-point lead in the second quarter and then just let it slip away. Then the third quarter was even worse.”

The Jazz lost despite season highs of 29 points and 15 assists from Williams. Last season, the team won its first five games with Williams sidelined due to an ankle injury.

Utah coach Jerry Sloan felt his team’s problems may have had something to do with effort.

“I thought we’d come with a lot more energy,” Sloan told his team’s official Web site.

Utah, already 0-2 on the road, now embarks on a trip that includes games at Eastern Conference powers Boston and Cleveland. The visit to New York may present the team’s best chance for a victory, even though the Jazz have lost five straight games there since a 92-78 win on Feb. 20, 2004.

That’s because the Knicks (1-6) have allowed at least 100 points in each of their seven games, with opponents shooting 49.8 percent from the field - among the worst marks in the NBA.

In its third straight defeat, New York gave up 40 points in the first quarter of a 102-87 loss at Milwaukee on Saturday, trailing by 31 at halftime and never competing with the Bucks.

“I don’t know,” guard Chris Duhon(notes) said. “We just got to continue to figure it out. It’s just one of those things where we’re struggling in many ways. The only way you can get out of it is just fighting through it.”

Duhon was removed after going 0 of 4 and scoring one point, while Wilson Chandler(notes) and Al Harrington(notes) combined to shoot 2 of 17 (11.8 percent) and scored eight points.

Harrington, already removed from the starting lineup, has had his minutes decrease as he continues to struggle. He’s still the Knicks’ leading scorer even after shooting below 40 percent for the fourth straight game.

Rookie Jordan Hill(notes), the eighth overall pick in last summer’s draft, saw his most extensive action against the Bucks, totaling seven points and six rebounds in 13 minutes. Fellow first-year player Toney Douglas(notes) had 16 points - easily his most in six games.

“They are earning some more time,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni told his team’s official Web site. “We’re early yet, so we’re going to go like we’ve been going and just trying to get better. … But I do like what I’ve been seeing out of Toney Douglas. He’s seems to get better all the time. And Jordan did some stuff.”

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