A loss goes into the books for Kurt Rambis, whose head coaching career with the Knicks began with a mess of a game. In a familiar narrative, the Knicks got off to a terrible start defensively and found their game in the second half before finally succumbing to their fatigue. Boasting one of the best back courts in the NBA, Washington tore the Knicks to pieces out on the perimeter to make up for their numerous mistakes down the stretch. The headline quote is courtesy of Attila the hun, who knows just how good the Knicks have become at purveying this brand of disappointment.
The Knicks started the game terribly, looking lost during transition defense and hemorrhaging points from the three point line. Porzingis looked fresh but paid little attention to detail. He did not hit a field goal in the first 22 minutes of the game. He finally canned a midrange jumper over his defender, Jared Dudley, who had tortured him on both ends. Dudley went into the half with 14 points, which is five more than his season average per game. He was on fire from behind the arc, which was representative of a Wizards attack that went 10-12 in the first half.
Almost unbelievably, Carmelo Anthony, whose knee kept him from playing a game as recently as Friday, played the first sixteen minutes of the game. Anthony took 13 points and four rebounds into halftime, with other big contributions from Arron Afflalo (11 points on 5-6 shooting) and Robin Lopez (10 points, 5 rebounds). Rambis showed another interesting rotational adjustment besides playing Anthony for so long to start the game, opting to bring Derrick Williams in around halfway through the second quarter. At approximately the same time, Rambis yanked Porzingis, who only had one foul, because he had given up an open three to Jared Dudley.
Rambis yanked KP quickly late 2d after Dudley again beat him downcourt 4 open corner 3. While Kurt lectured KP, Dudley hit open 3 on AA— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) February 10, 2016
The Knicks came out with purpose to start the second half. Washington's three point shooting was unsustainable, and the Knicks had shot 50% in the first half despite an awful start and plenty of warts in their overall game. A Kristaps Porzingis three pointer cut the lead to 65-60 only a few minutes into the third, forcing Randy Wittman to call a time out. The time out did little to stem Porzingis, however, as he began to make big plays with regularity
GOODBYE JARED.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) February 10, 2016
EVERYONE GET OUT OF THE WAY.
PORZINGIS GAWED pic.twitter.com/8eIf3X3bu4
February 10, 2016
The momentum Porzingis created with his all-around play helped to quicken the pace, which worked to the Knicks' advantage so long as they hit their shots. The crowd had awoken and the only thing preventing the Knicks from taking the lead in earnest was Washington's continued dominance from downtown. The Knicks continued to string together successful offensive trips and pulled even with 3:00 to go in the third quarter. It was a new game heading into the fourth at 83-83. Jose Calderon had played almost no role in New York's offense in his 19 scoreless minutes, but Langston Galloway and Afflalo played well enough to decrease the massive talent gap between the two teams' back courts.
That changed radically in the fourth quarter, when John Wall took over nearly ever aspect of the game when Bradley Beal wasn't draining threes. Though the Knicks made mistakes down the stretch defensively, especially on the perimeter, many of the shots Wall drained were contested just fine. Knicks guards were completely useless to stop penetration, which put them at the mercy of Wall's fakes, and he hit shots he often does not. Even when Kristaps Porzingis came up with a clutch steal with 1:05 remaining and the Knicks down five, the officials blew the whistle on the Knicks forward. It was a bad call, but it was a product of Wall's aggression. Porzingis came up with a huge block on the very next play, which led to an Afflalo layup on the other end. Beal was whistled for a foul on what initially seemed to be a three point opportunity, but the play was reviewed in a rare end-game situation and ultimately resulted in a turnover. It was perfectly representative of the Knicks' final frame. After turning the ball over only seven times in the first three quarters, the Knicks surpassed that tally in the fourth quarter alone.
Once again another team's backcourt has outplayed the #Knicks' guards. Wall & Beal a combined 49 points, 19 assists and 8 boards.— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) February 10, 2016
Washington's guards did plenty of plenty of work against the Knicks and solid performances from Anthony and Porzingis proved fruitless. Rambis made a couple of questionable decisions down the stretch, such as taking out Kristaps Porzingis during defensive possessions while leaving Jose Calderon in as well as his refusal to have the Knicks foul down four with 20 seconds remaining. When the Knicks came up with a big steal despite the poor strategy, Galloway threw the ball away to allow a fast break. He managed to foul Bradley Beal to prevent the layup and Beal could not convert on either of his free throws. Galloway immediately made up for his crunch time mistake with a huge contested three to pull the Knicks within one with 8.5 seconds remaining. Out of timeouts, the Knicks intentionally fouled Wall with 6.6 remaining. He hit them both. Washington fouled Anthony shortly after the Knicks inbounded and he pulled the Knicks within one. The Knicks fouled again with 4.3 remaining. Wall hit them both. The Knicks got the ball into Calderon, who managed a terrific pass to a wide open Galloway for one of the most open looks of the game for the Knicks. Galloway's attempt came up short and the Knicks lost a bona fide heartbreaker. The narrative lacked innovation:
So the primary concerns were slow starts, poor finishes and shaky defensive disposition, right?— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) February 10, 2016
Galloway, who had just hit the most difficult shot of the game, could not come up with a shootaround attempt. The Knicks have now dropped 10 of their last 11 games and head into the All-Star Break at 23-32 after hitting .500 at 22-22.