No Miracle Near 34th Street

NEW YORK — Being home for the holidays is usually a nice thing for most.

For the New York Knicks, it meant enduring their team-record eighth straight home loss, as the visiting Washington Wizards built a 22-point third-quarter lead and led by double digits throughout the second half while celebrating a 102-91 Christmas Day victory at Madison Square Garden on Thursday afternoon.

Overall, the Knicks (5-26) suffered their sixth consecutive defeat and 16th loss in 17 games as they continue their worst start in franchise history. Conversely, the Wizards (20-8) erased a two-game skid that followed a stretch of 10 wins in 11 games.

Forward Carmelo Anthony’s game-high 34 points weren’t enough to overcome Washington’s team effort, which featured six scorers in double figures, led by guard John Wall, who had 24 points, while posting a game-high 11 assists and six rebounds.

Backcourt mate Bradley Beal added 17 points to help Wall, who also overcame an attack by reserve forward Quincy Acy (four points) after the two were involved in an altercation with 5:31 remaining.

Point guard Jose Calderon (16 points) was the only New York starter to join Anthony in double figures in scoring.

Battling uphill from the start against a far superior team, the Knicks, in line with a famous holiday movie storyline, needed a miracle in their building, which rests a block from 34th street, in the heart of New York City. Yet in the end, New York sent its fans home with yet another lump of coal, while falling to 3-13 at the Garden this season. One of those losses was likewise against Washington, by 15 points, on November 4.

This time, the Wizards made their first five shots from the floor and scored nine straight points to lead, 11-2.

After Washington and New York traded four-point spurts, the Knicks used a 7-3 run to close to within 18-13. But a 16-7 stretch gave the Wizards a 34-20 advantage before a 3-pointer by reserve point guard Shane Larkin (five points) beat the first-quarter buzzer to draw New York a bit closer.

Anthony led all scorers in the period with a dozen points, making half of his eight shots, but his teammates combined for just 4-for-13 shooting. Washington, meanwhile, shot 62.5 percent (15-for-14) in the quarter, led by Wall, who scored nine points, on 4-of-5 shooting, while recording more assists (six) than New York (five) in the period.

Scoring eight of the first 10 second-quarter points, the Wizards opened a 42-25 edge.

Five straight points by Anthony (who finished the first half with a game-high 21 points) pulled the Knicks to within 53-44, but Beal scored the next five and Wall added a layup to extend Washington’s lead to 60-44 by halftime.

Wall was still ahead of the Knicks (8-7) in assists by that point as the Wizards were shooting a blistering 61.4 percent (27-for-44), with none of their players having taken more than seven field goal attempts.

Starting the second half with the first six points, Washington increased its lead to 66-44. New York’s best stretch, an 11-2 run, cut the deficit to 68-55, but four Wizards scored during a 9-2 answer that pushed Washington’s edge to 77-57.

After an Anthony tip-in closed an 11-4 spurt to get the Knicks to within 81-68, Wall, with actor Michael B. Jordan sitting courtside, made a shot reminiscent of a far more famous Jordan. Splitting New York’s defense, Wall drove the lane for a sensational hanging, spinning layup to put the Wizards up, 83-68, before they took an 84-70 lead into the final quarter.

Reserve center Kevin Seraphin (eight points) scored the first four points of the fourth period to give Washington an 18-point edge, but an 11-3 surge cut the margin to 91-81 just before tempers flared.

Taking exception to a hard foul by Acy on the right wing, Wall shoved Acy and was later issued a technical foul as a result. Acy responded by aggressively going after Wall, which resulted in a Flagrant Foul 2 and an ejection.

With NBA commissioner Adam Silver in the building, Acy maintained that his actions shouldn’t warrant further punishment from the league office.

“What was done wrong?” he said. “It was just a foul. If somebody has a fast break and you step in front of them, and grab him, it’s the same concept. (Reserve guard) Pablo (Prigioni) had [fallen], so I stepped up, and in front, and just stopped the break. I guess [Wall] didn’t like it… he got up and pushed me. I got up and reacted, and I just grabbed him.”

Showing good leadership, Anthony walked with a still-heated Acy around the court, and talked to Acy until he calmed down.

“That’s my teammate, that’s my man, that’s my guy,” Anthony said. “I’ve been in that situation before… my responsibility is to take care of [my teammate]. The right thing to do is just to get [Acy] away from that and from everybody else.”

Photo: Jon Wagner
Photo: Jon Wagner

Starting forward Amar’e Stoudemire (six points, seven rebounds) chalked the incident up to being part of the larger frustrations with the season the Knicks are having.

“I think an accumulation of frustration builds up,” he said. “We’re sick of losing, so that happens sometimes.”

Others agreed that the episode was somewhat overblown.

Rookie head coach Derek Fisher, coming off an 18-year career as an NBA point guard, didn’t seem to have an issue with Acy not walking away from Wall after being pushed.

“Pablo is on the floor and I think Quincy was [simply] trying to give [Wall] a good, hard foul so he wouldn’t score.”

Fisher’s counterpart, head coach Randy Wittman said, “That is basketball. It is a physical game and sometimes is leads to that.”

Starting forward Paul Pierce, held to just three points of 1-of-5 shooting, echoed his coach’s sentiments, saying, “It’s a physical game. We always say, ‘If you don’t like physicality, go play golf.’”

After Acy left the floor, New York would get no closer, falling behind by 15 points on two more occasions before the Knicks scored the last four points.

During the game, New York’s rookie team president Phil Jackson tweeted a message for Knicks fans, saying, “Please be assured your hopes and wishes are getting through to Santa. He will bring #knicknation a better 2015 than 14. The effort and skill of our team will grow as the players learn how to play with and for each other.”

“If he said that, then he feels that way,” Anthony said, before adding with a laugh, “I don’t really know what to say about that, [but] 2015 is in a [few] days.”

Possessing the league’s second-worst winning percentage (.161), New York, which leads the NBA in losses, will close the calendar year on the road, with a weekend back-to-back stint in Sacramento and Portland before meeting the Los Angeles Clippers on New Year’s Eve.

About the Author

Jon Wagner

Jon has been a credentialed writer with New York Sports Day since 2009, primarily covering the New York Knicks and Hofstra men's basketball. He has also occasionally covered other college basketball and New York's pro teams including the Mets, Giants, Jets, Islanders, Rangers and Cosmos (including their three most recent championship seasons).Jon is former Yahoo Sports contributor who previously covered various sports for the Queens Ledger. He's a proud alum of Hofstra University and the Connecticut School of Broadcasting (which he attended on a full scholarship).He remains convinced to this day that John Starks would have won the Knicks a championship in 1994 had Hakeem Olajuwon not blocked Starks' shot in Game 6 of the 1994 NBA Finals.

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