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There was no stopping Utah killer Austin Rivers in the first half Tuesday. The slumping Knicks guard dropped a career-high 25 points in 12 minutes and made his first 10 shots — five of them 3-pointers.
And the Knicks were thumping the Jazz like they did in earlier this month when Rivers scored the game’s final 14 points.
But the magic stopped for Doc Rivers’ son. Rivers pushed off on a drive, picking up his third foul with 4:30 left in the opening half and Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau decided to pull Rivers and his perfect game.
The night was never the same. Rivers didn’t come back until there was 4:11 left in the third quarter and had lost his hottest of hands as the Jazz rallied from 15 points down to gain revenge on the Knicks, 108-94, at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City.
Rivers finished with those 25 as the Knicks (8-11) finished the four-game Western trip at 1-3. Rivers missed all four of his shots in the second half as the Jazz heated up from 3 and the Knicks dropped the final three games of the trip after notching the opener against Golden State.
Utah was led by Rudy Gobert’s 19 points and 18 rebounds.
It was an odd day for Rivers, who spoke to the media after the morning shootaround and touched on two topics — the mentorship of Kobe Bryant on the anniversary of his death and the club’s state of “fatigue.’’ Rivers was struggling, having scored just seven points in the previous four games.
As the game unfolded, Rivers resembled Bryant for the first half before the whole team looked zapped in the final two quarters as the Jazz won their ninth straight game to move to 13-4.
“He’s helped me with in times of doubt and in times of failure,’’ Rivers said in the morning of Bryant. “He used to come up to me and talk to me about all my games, especially early on [in New Orleans] when I was young. And especially when I was struggling. My first 2 ½ years, I wasn’t playing my best basketball.’’
Rivers’ 25-point performance at least topped his father’s Knicks-high of 24 points in 1993. Rivers just missed tying a Knicks record of going 11 of 11 to start a game.
Rivers’ heavily contested pull-up bounced off the rim on his 11th attempt, failing to tie the team record of most made shots to start a game. The mark is shared by Johnny Newman, Bernard King and Mitchell Robinson.
Then Rivers committed a bad foul on Mike Conley with 2.4 seconds left in the third quarter, thinking he had a foul to give. It sent Conley to the free-throw line, where he hit both to draw Utah within 81-80 after three. Conley led the comeback with 17 of his 19 points in the second half.
Utah started the fourth quarter on an 11-0 run to end it and the Knicks just fell apart.
“Oh, we’re definitely tired,’’ Rivers said after Tuesday’s morning shootaround. “Our schedule, I would challenge anybody to put up their schedule versus ours. I don’t know how a schedule could be tougher than what we’ve played.’’
That’s how the Knicks played for the second half. And Rivers had no help. Rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley, the star in the Portland loss on Sunday, finished 1 of 11 from the field. Alec Burks, facing his old team, was worse, going 3 of 14.
The Jazz kept throwing different defenders on Rivers in the first half and nothing deterred him except how own fouls. Rivers’ last bucket — a 3 from the corner — put the Knicks ahead 48-34.
Despite missing Rivers, the Knicks maintained their bulge and led 59-46 at intermission. The Jazz doubled Rivers at times in the second half.
As Rivers raged, Westchester native Donovan Mitchell missed his first seven shots and was 1 of 11 at one point. Mitchell’s seventh straight miss came on a block from the free-throw line by a helping Robinson, after which the Jazz All-Star was knocked to the floor.
The Knicks led 53 38 after RJ Barrett (17 points) drained a left-wing 3 after he was coming off a quiet eight-point night in Portland where he was benched for the fourth quarter.
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