SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Kurt Thomas wasn't sure he would even play Monday night after X-rays showed a bone spur in his right foot.
The New York Knicks veteran forward not only played, he earned a game ball for a gutsy, 27-minute effort that included six points, three rebounds and a season-high three blocks in a 90-83 victory over the Utah Jazz.
"Our defense really shined tonight, especially in the second half," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said of holding Utah to 28.9 percent shooting after halftime. "Everybody just seemed to make plays defensively when we needed to make stops. And then we made big shots when we had to have it."
J.R. Smith scored 20 points, including 18 in the second half, and Raymond Felton had 19 for the short-handed Knicks, who snapped a four-game losing streak.
The Knicks (39-26) dropped games at Golden State, Denver, Portland and the Los Angeles Clippers by an average margin of 20 points, but salvaged the last game of their trip with the victory over the turnover-prone Jazz (38-27).
"It's going to be a nice ride home," Woodson added. "We have been struggling out here on the road and to win at this altitude and this environment means we were hungry."
New York remains atop the Atlantic Division and stayed a game ahead of the Nets for the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
New York was without leading scorer Carmelo Anthony, who practiced earlier Monday and indicated his right knee feels better since he had fluid drained. New York also remained without center Tyson Chandler, bothered by a strained neck muscle, and forward Amare Stoudemire, who recently underwent knee surgery.
Thomas was a game-time decision, and is expected to undergo an MRI when the team returns to New York on Tuesday. But the 40-year-old provided a big spark off the bench.
"Kurt was a true warrior," Smith said. "To fight through what he's been feeling all week and ... do that kind of job on the defensive end and make shots, they don't make that breed no more."
Thomas said he was just waiting for his number to be called.
"You stay ready and do what you know you can do," he said.
The effort surprised even Woodson.
"He hadn't played 26 minutes maybe all year and we didn't even know if he was going to play tonight. It was a total team effort but Kurt deserved the game ball tonight," Woodson said.
Afterward, Felton wasn't immediately available because he was icing his sore back. And Jason Kidd was nursing a sore left wrist, though X-rays taken immediately after the game were negative.