“Pay no attention to those men behind the three-point line.” It was like the Knicks were playing the “Wizards of Oz.”
The Washington Wizards put on a three point shooting gallery and spoiled a 44 point effort from Kemba Walker as they throttled the Knicks, 124-117 at the Garden last night.
The Wizards came into the game averaging a little over 9-three pointers made per game but they made 16 from beyond the arc and shot 56% overall to key a 124-117 win. The Knicks are now 14-18 on the season but a disheartening 6-11 on 33rd street.
The Wizards were without their leading scorer, Bradley Beal, who is in health and safety protocols but it didn’t matter as the Knicks were practicing social distancing with their defense, particularly on the perimeter. “We were very poor. We didn’t have control of the ball, we didn’t have stance and vision on the weak side. It’s very hard to win like that,” coach Tom Thibodeau said after another loss at MSG.
Spencer Dinwiddie, the ex-Brooklyn Net, had 21 points and 12 assists while rookie Corey Kispert, making his first career start, scored 20 points on 6 of 7 from the field, including 4 of 5 from three.
The Knicks were playing their first game since learning Derrick Rose will be out for at least eight weeks after undergoing ankle surgery. RJ Barrett and Quentin Grimes were cleared from Covid protocol but weren’t ready to play yet and Nerlens Noel became the latest Knicks to join the Covid list.
“There’s a lot of moving parts right now but there’s a lot of moving parts for everyone, it’s all about how quickly can we adapt,” Thibodeau said.
Washington’s bench outscored the Knicks 38-14, including Montrezl Harrell (15) and Dani Avdija (14) who combined for 29 points.
Walker’s performance left you scratching your head as to why he was banished for nine games. It’s one thing to put the veteran on the bench, it’s another thing to not play him at all, especially when the team is not winning games.
The Bronx product scored 23 of his 28 first half points in a spectacular second quarter. He also added 9 rebounds and 8 assists as he did his best to get the Knicks a win. “He played a monster game but we came out with a loss so it’s a shame to waste that type of effort with a game like that,” Thibodeau said. “When you’re shorthanded like we are right now, we can’t afford not to play with great intensity on every possession.”
Julius Randle scored 23 points but was 0 for 5 from three point range. Randle also had four more turnovers which is something that has haunted him all season long. Obi Toppin returned from the Covid list and played 13 minutes but he was not a factor.
Alec Burks scored 20 points, but Evan Fournier had an all around, awful game. The veteran shooting guard was 2 for 13, including 2 for 11 from beyond the arc, but his defense was even worse. Not even “Reputation Defender” could help Fournier last night.
Mitchell Robinson was in foul trouble so rookie Jericho Sims played 22 minutes and scored six points with six rebounds.
Thanks to Walker’s second quarter outburst, the Knicks took a 64-57 lead at halftime but once again, they lost control of the game in the third quarter.
Washington came out firing and used a 12-0 run to grab a 71-66 lead. The Knicks missed 7 of their first 8 shots and never saw a lead for the remainder of the game.
With less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter, Fournier made a three pointer from the corner to pull the Knicks within two, 109-107, but Wizards’ guard Aaron Holiday answered with a huge three to make it a five point lead.
Kyle Kuzma, who scored 20 points, hit two, huge three pointers down the stretch to put the Wizards up 118-111 and seal the deal with less than a minute left.
It was inevitable that the Knicks were going to take a step backward defensively this season, but they’ve “fallen off the cliff” when it comes to guarding the opposition.
The Knicks have the Atlanta Hawks up next for a 12 noon matinee on Christmas Day (Covid permitting) at the Garden. Thibodeau is hoping to have Barrett and Quentin Grimes (who was also cleared yesterday) back on the floor. “We have to be realistic and we’ll see what happens tomorrow. Try to get in there and get some work and hopefully get some bodies back,” said Thibodeau.