Three Wiz, Knicks Fall Under Wizards’ Spell

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

As well as the Knicks had been playing coming into last night’s game, that’s how poorly they played against the Wizards. They didn’t blow a lead because there was no lead to blow.

Kyle Kuzma burned the Knicks for 27 points while Ol’ friend Kristaps Porzingis scored 22 points as Washington “shot the eyes out” from beyond the arc in a wire-to-wire, 116-105 win over a Knicks team that had no answers and seemed lethargic at times.

Despite Jalen Brunson scoring a game high 32 points, there was no flow on offense and nothing was happening from three-point range (7 for 26, 27%) to match what the Wizards (16 for 42, 38%) were doing from downtown.

As evidenced by the Wizards’ success from the “Petula Clark” song, the Knicks’ defense from the perimeter was non existent. Washington led by as many as 17 and was never really threatened.

Immanuel Quickley, who scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and provided somewhat of a spark, hit a pull up three to make it 95-88, but the Wizards went on a 10-0 run to go up 105-88 and put the game away with five minutes left.

The Knicks lost their second in a row at the Garden and looked like a tired team. Julius Randle had, what was likely, his worst game of the season as he struggled to find any rhythm. Randle scored 14 points with 16 rebounds, but a lot of those stats came late in the fourth quarter. Randle was 0 for 5 from three. 

R.J. Barrett was up and down and finished with 21 points but he was 0 for 4 from three and shot 1 for 6 in the fourth quarter after getting off to a good start.

The Knicks looked like a team that had played three games in four days and don’t forget, this is a team that doesn’t buy into the “load management” philosophy. The Knicks play their starting players and they play a lot, including Randle.

Sometimes Thibodeau sticks with Randle too long on nights when it’s apparent that he just doesn’t have it. Randle is an important cog on this Knicks team and has played well, but some nights, he can virtually be a non factor and that was the case in this one.

It didn’t help that Mitchell Robinson suffered a sprained right thumb in the first quarter and played only nine minutes. Isaiah Hartenstein and Jericho Sims were no match for the Wizards big front line. “You miss who he [Robinson] is, obviously, but that’s part of it, but overall we didn’t play well,” Thibodeau said.

Bradley Beal returned for the Wizards after missing five games and scored 18 points. Dani Avdija scored 14 points and had seven rebounds, including some key offensive boards, to spark the Wizards off the bench. Porzingis had 11 rebounds, 5 assists and two blocks before fouling out late in the game.

The Knicks had beaten the Wizards this past Friday night, so payback was definitely a factor. “We just played ‘em. We won there so you know they’re going to come in with an edge, then they get Beal back, they get Morris back so it’s a different team but there’s also urgency on their part,” said Thibodeau.

The Wizards were quicker to 50-50 balls throughout the game and they had 11 of their 18 offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, that led to 12 of their 22 second chance points to stymie any Knicks comeback.

The Wizards jumped out to a 7-0 lead and made it 14-3 as Porzingis had 8 points in the first three minutes of the game. The Wizards shot 7 of 12 from three and took a 35-22 lead after one. “We were playing from behind all night, so that hurt us,” Thibodeau said. “They came out, they were making shots early and they got a lot of confidence from that. I thought they played well. We missed shots and we couldn’t get our defense untracked.”

Washington averaged a little over ten three pointers per game coming in but they had 10 at halftime and led 56-48. “They made a lot of tough shots, a lot were contested,” Quentin Grimes said. “I thought the effort was there. You kinda gotta tip your hat off, they kinda made almost every shot they threw up in that first quarter. It’s tough when you gotta play catch up for the whole game really.”

Before this game, the Knicks were 1-13 when trailing at the half, so they were trying to buck a trend but it wasn’t meant to be.

Brunson scored 16 points in the third quarter, including a stretch where he had 9 of the Knicks’ 10 points. After Brunson’s three point play cut the lead to 11, Kuzma hit a three to give Washington an 86-71 lead with less than two minutes left and finished the third quarter with an 88-78 lead.

The Knicks appeared to get some momentum early in the fourth quarter as Sims scored on an alley oop from Miles McBride to make it 90-83, but the Wizards never flinched and came away with their 8th road win in 24 games.

The Knicks were standing around on offense and played a bit too much iso ball, thus the lethargic look. “Our ball pressure could’ve been better, our close outs could’ve been harder but overall I don’t think it was from a lack of effort said Thibodeau. “I just think we didn’t play well.”

The Wizards had 28 assists to the Knicks’ 14 for the game. Brunson said their offense is predicated on their defense. “It starts on the defensive end,” said Brunson who had at least 25 points for the eighth consecutive game. “If we’re not getting stops, we can’t get easy buckets. I think we just gotta continue to just pick it up on the defensive end and just find a way to kind of just get back on track.”

Knicks (25-21) are now a puzzling 11-13 at the Garden but they’ll hit the road where they have posted an outstanding 14-8 mark. It begins Friday in Atlanta against the Hawks and a third game in 16 days against the Raptors on Sunday in Toronto.

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