The Knicks thoroughly outplayed the Wizards in the first half. The ball moved with a purpose, they were quicker to loose balls, Mario Hezonja actually strung together productive minutes and the youngn’s — sans Frank Ntilikina — strung together some decent minutes off the bench en route to a 61-52 lead at the break.
But these Wizards, regardless of their well-chronicled struggles and shortcomings, own our Knicks. Coming into the game they had won 16 of 18, including eight straight at the Garden over the ’Bockers. They extended that streak to nine largely due to a superb defensive effort at the outset of the third quarter which thoroughly flummoxed the Knicks.
The Wizards challenged New York’s ball handlers higher up the floor, not allowing the Knicks to get into their sets in timely fashion. Washington also switched effectively on shooters coming off screens as well as aggressively trapping the ball handler on any screening actions. The noticeable uptick in defensive intensity flipped the script as the Wizards quickly regained the lead to start the half and eventually pushed out to a 16-point lead with 4:24 left in the fourth.
Perhaps buoyed by their heroics in reversing a 16-point deficit to force overtime on Saturday against Milwaukee, the Knicks didn’t quit. They tightened up on defense (forcing the Wiz into late clock jumpers), they were strong on the glass on both ends, and they were able to create open shots by pushing the ball in transition. A Noah Vonleh finger roll cut the lead to three with 35 seconds left, but Wall extinguished the Knicks’ hopes for second consecutive miraculous comeback. His triple late in the shot clock with just 12 seconds left saved the Wizards from any potential embarassment.
The Knicks played hard and there were certainly some bright moments, but once again, the Wizards proved to be an opponent against whom they can’t quite get over the hump.
- Mario Hezonja is just bad, man. He had a decent enough first half offensively, but his defensive lapses are infuriating. I think Fizdale is being forced to start him due to reasons out of his control, but at some point you can’t justify it anymore. That point has come and gone. There is not a single argument to be made to continue starting him over Damyean Dotson.
- Speaking of Dotson, he continued his strong run of play since a run of four straight DNP-CD’s. Tonight he chipped in with 17 points on 6-12 shooting from the field, and had nine rebounds in just 24 minutes. He can shoot, he plays hard, he rebounds well and he’s a solid perimeter defender. The Knicks really did win the Derrick Rose trade.
- Frank didn’t play tonight for the second consecutive game. Dot’s proof that Fizdale’s not full of crap when he says this isn’t the end of the line for our French son. When that chance comes, Frank’s got to respond like Dot has.
- He’s going to get a chance sooner rather than later if Allonzo Trier has more stinkers like tonight’s. One point on 0-4 shooting and an assist is all he had to show for his 15 minutes at backup point tonight. An off night for the greatest undrafted rookie free agent of all time.
- Kevin Knox didn’t shoot well, but he was active tonight. One thing I really like about him is that he doesn’t just get open shots by accident; he’s quite good about finding space off the ball and making himself available. If he starts shooting better, it’ll get more attention. He also flashed his playmaking chops tonight.
- Enes Kanter has 13 and 16 tonight. I barely noticed a lot of that, which isn’t to say Kanter had a bad game. I just don’t really remember him tonight, which is surprising because I thought he could really go off with the Wizards rolling out a Thomas Bryant/Ian Mahinmi center platoon.
- Otto Porter Jr. had three steals and three blocks and I’m fairly certain all of those came on Emmanuel Mudiay.
- Mudiay had a rough outing. He kept getting stuffed at the rim or stripped on his drives, and he got torn apart by John Wall in pick-and-roll all night. To his credit, Mud kept going and helped lead the Knicks’ fake comeback. It was really ugly for long stretches, but I’ve been impressed with his “stick-to-itiveness” this season.
- Look, if Noah Vonleh’s going to keep shooting 83% from three this season he’s going to get paid this summer. A big that can handle, board, shoot, switch out onto the perimeter on defense and flip between both frontcourt positions is very valuable. The Knicks are going to have a big (and expensive) decision to make on Vonleh come July if he maintains this level of production.
- Courtney Lee played his first minutes of the season tonight. His first shot attempt was a pull-up 20-footer after pump faking on a potential catch-and-shoot three. Some things change, some things stay the same. He also bricked a wide open layup late in the game. Whatever. Please play well enough for a couple of weeks to get traded.
- What was worse: Bradley Beal’s celebration of his lefty layup or Kelly Oubre blowing kisses after hitting a three?
- Kelly Oubre needs to fuck off.
- The refs made a pair of dubious calls that took away a bucket by Knox and Mitchell Robinson. Those points coming off the board ultimately proved costly.
- The Knicks struggled when the Wizards started getting into them in the second half on the perimeter. This has been a recurring theme this season. I’m not super worried about it yet, because young teams struggle with this shit, but they will need to develop counters to those coverages at some point. I’ll be on the lookout, Fiz!
Despite outplaying Washington for stretches of the game, the poor showing at the start of the second half dug the Knicks too deep of a hole to climb their way out of. Quoth Kaisersoser37, “Third quarter starting lineup should be strung up and flogged.” Big facts.