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Washington 121, New York 103: “Wizards > Knicks”

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If you missed tonight’s loss but saw last night’s, you’re pretty much all caught up.

NBA: New York Knicks at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Today I started working on a new song.

It’s going to take a while before any part of it feels under my control. When you have a song under control, you can disassociate from your body and observe yourself playing as if it’s someone else. It’s an eerily delicious out-of-body experience. If you don’t have a song under control and you disassociate, shit’s off the rails in no time.

The New York Knicks fell to the Washington Wizards 121-103 tonight because they aren’t good enough to disassociate, especially on the road, especially against a team that’s head and shoulders above them. For a half the Knicks were in the game, but like last night against San Antonio, the third quarter proved to be their bugaboo. New York has now lost 7 straight and 14 of 16 to Washington. Tonight’s loss drops them two games under .500 for first time since opening the season 0-3.

The opening minutes of the game was the rarely seen Enes Kanter/Marcin Gortat Battle of the Bigs. Each team was featuring their five-man early and often; Gortat reached his nightly scoring average before the midway mark of the first. The first-half was an up-and-down, back-and-forth affair, with both teams hitting just under 60% of their shots. The Knick bench was dominant, outscoring their counterparts 23-8. They were only down one. It was tempting to think things would last.

Tonight’s foreshadowing came in the final four seconds of the half. The Wizards rushed up the floor for a final shot. Bradley Beal missed a three-pointer, and while Kristaps Porzingis, Kyle O’Quinn and Michael Beasley all stood around pondering whether their life philosophies more closely align with the moral liberalism of John Stuart Mill or the broad-shouldered huckster pseudo-Calvinism of Tony Robbins, another John - Wall - hustled after the rebound, as if predetermined to corral it, and hit a buzzer-beating J.

The third quarter began and the Wizard defense held some truths to be self-evident: Jarrett Jack maybe can’t shoot and def doesn’t want to. Courtney Lee playing playmaker and throwing up contested runners is something you don’t mind. Lance Thomas, decision-maker, is not a thing. The Knicks missed 13 of their first 16 shots and Washington went on a 23-7 decathlon to open the quarter; it wasn’t a “run” because it literally lasted most of the quarter.

You knew it was over, but for the Doubting Thomases out there, the Knicks pulled within 10 late in the fourth. Markieff Morris hit a three-pointer that I figured was the nail in the coffin, but Michael Beasley followed with a three of his own. Wall then brought the nail and the house down.

It was fun while it lasted. But it didn’t last long.

Notes:

  • Frank Ntilikina took seven shots tonight. I think he took them all in his first minute of action. Then...nothing. It was fun to see Frank popping off! I’d like to see more of it. I trust his instincts, and that he will when he feels ready.
  • An MSG network graphic of note: on the back-end of back-to-backs his rookie season, Porzingis averaged 13.3 points on 40% shooting. Last year, it was 16 points on 43% shooting. This season, entering tonight’s game, it’s a shade under 29 on 45% shooting. Tonight, it was 16 points on 38% shooting. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • In the first half KP drew consecutive fouls on Mike Scott, once drawing contact after pulling up quick from just off the free throw line. The greatest team athlete I’ve ever seen was Wayne Gretzky. When he parked behind the net, people called it his “office” because of how he’d set up there and do business.

Porzingis is starting to make that little area his office.

  • The haters claim the Knicks are 3-13 on the road. The faithful sing hosannas to the team being 2-6 away from home (a .250 winning percentage) after a 1-7 (.125) start.
  • 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 fouls in 24 minutes for O’Quinn. In a far-off galaxy’s NBA: Ragnarok league, on some planet whose gravity is denser and thus their version of basketball maaad more physical, nasty, brutish and short, O’Quinn is Boogie Cousins. Up his minutes 50% and cut the fouls in half and he’s making 10 times what Earth O’Quinn rakes.
  • Beasley led the Knicks with 20 points tonight. He’s led them in scoring 6 of the past 10 games. Go back in time and tell your August self that shit and see what face they make.
  • My last recap was the Pelicans game, which gave me a chance to watch Cousins, whose game is my favorite among bigs. Tonight I felt fortunate to get to see Wall play. So fast. So gregarious. So ambidextrous. So driven. So good. Wall may have already passed Billy Wagner as the greatest righty-to-lefty athlete I’ve ever seen. Every time he throws down a left-handed dunk it looks so natural I forget he’s not a southpaw.
  • As soon as Ntilikina checked in the game, Wall went at him. Frank forced a deflection, ultimately forcing Wall to miss a long two. You see these big-name guards itching to take their shots against the French Tickler. You see these big-name guards learning they’d be better off not.
  • Conversely...Wall converted a driving lay-up while drawing a foul against Ron Baker. Watching Baker try to stop Wall with a full head of steam is like...there is no analogy. Wall/Baker represents the extreme ends of whatever continuum you’re talking about. From now on we should analogize shit using Wall and Baker to emphasize whatever we’re saying.
  • We remember different point guards for different reasons. I remember Howard Eisley for being exceptionally ineffective running fast breaks. I remember Shane Larkin for his steadfast refusal to ever put up a heave at the end of a quarter. I remember Rod Strickland for being the best finisher at the rim I’ve ever seen. I will remember Baker as one of the worst.
  • One of the small joys that comes with rooting for a team seemingly on the rise to respectability: 3 of the Knicks’ next 6 games are against teams at or above .500, three are against losing teams. The Knicks could easily, easily win or lose every single one of those games.
  • The Wizards ended the third with a Beal drive and dish to Ian Mahinmi for a dunk with 0.4 seconds left. Worst. End. Of. Quarter. Defending. Team. Ever.
  • On one possession in the 2nd Beasley rose up to block Gortat’s shot. It looked like the Knicks would get out on run, but the Wizards kept possession. Gortat drove for what looked like a dunk, but he was fouled — solidly — by McDermott. I don’t know which was stranger: Beasley looking like Draymond Green or McDermott looking like Charles Oakley.
  • McDermott turned 26 today, meaning he’s crossed the threshold to be too old to be considered part of any future youth movements. Don’t feel bad, McBuckets. I turned 39 a few months ago and I need a spotter when I put on socks.
  • 50 years ago tonight, Red Holzman won his first game as head coach of the Knicks. Much respect, William.
  • Kanter vs. Gortat. Steel-cage death match. Who ya got?
  • Nice to see the Knicks wearing road blues for once.

Quoth Read React: “Wizards > Knicks.” Yeah they are. You can’t take a quarter off against a superior opponent. The Knicks’ next game is Friday, in a much friendlier weight class—Miami. Enjoy the snow day, y’all.