SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Jazz clinched a playoff spot one day and moved into first place the next.
The Jazz took over the Northwest Division lead by holding off the New York Knicks 103-98 on Monday night, the first time Utah has been alone in first place in more than a year.
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"Now that we've got it, it's great, but we want to be in first come the end of the season," said Carlos Boozer, who had 26 points and 14 rebounds for the Jazz.
The Jazz made seven 3-pointers while scoring 44 in the first quarter, then got a little lax on defense and allowed the Knicks to tie it late in the third. Utah finally pulled away with a 10-2 surge and held New York to just 11 points in the final period.
"Defense did it," Williams said. "I wish we would have had that in the first three quarters."
Utah's victory combined with Denver's loss at Dallas puts the Jazz one game ahead of the Nuggets for the division lead and keeps the Jazz within a half-game of the Mavericks, who are second in the Western Conference. Utah is also just a game up on Phoenix, so losses in any of the seven remaining games could have a huge impact on the final standings and playoff seeds.
The Knicks scored 30 points in both the first and second quarters, keeping up with Utah's quick start.
"They shot unbelievable in the first quarter, but then we tightened up a little bit on the defense," New York coach Mike D'Antoni said.
It was the 50th double-double of the season for Boozer and Williams' 41st. Williams almost had his wrapped up before the end of the first quarter, finishing with 14 points and eight assists. The Jazz shot 17 for 20 in the period, missing as many from the foul line as they did from the floor.
"All we could do was pray and hope that they started missing shots," Harrington said. "We upped our intensity and they started missing shots and it allowed us to get back into the game."
The Knicks hacked away at the lead and cut it to 64-60 by halftime, then tied it in the third.
"We scored a lot but we gave up a lot," Boozer said. "We started getting into a jump shooting contest. Next thing you know it's a game. We got enough stops to win it."
A 3-pointer by Harrington tied it at 84, then Tracy McGrady drew a foul while shooting a 3-pointer. He made the first foul shot to tie it at 87, but missed the next two and it was still tied entering the fourth.
Utah opened the fourth with a 6-0 run and the Knicks weren't able to catch up again, but they kept it close until the final minute.
Mehmet Okur, who scored 13, hit a 3-pointer midway through the third that put Utah up 96-91 and started a 10-2 run that clinched it for the Jazz. After Rodriguez cut it to 96-93 with a layup, Boozer followed with a layup and then Williams hit back-to-back jumpers, including his fifth 3-pointer of the night to restore Utah's lead to 10.
"These teams are always dangerous. They're not playing for anything," Williams said. "They're loose. They're free. They have a lot of confidence and sometimes it's tough to go up against them."Notes
- According to the Jazz, the last time Utah was alone in first place was last March 24.
- Both teams used only eight players.
- The Knicks announced Monday that C Eddy Curry will likely miss the rest of the season because of a right calf injury. Curry has played in just seven games this season.
- Utah F Andrei Kirilenko was out again with a strained left calf, the eighth game he's missed in Utah's last 10.
- The Jazz hold the Knicks' 2010 first-round draft pick.