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Washington 118, New York 113: “The tank always wins”

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Washington Wizards v New York Knicks Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

For a half last night, it was the Tim Hardaway Jr. Game. Then it was 118-113, Washington over New York, an epic collapse even by Knick standards. That’s eight in a row they’ve dropped, and eight straight defeats to the Wizards and eight straight losses at home to the Beltway boys. Wizard coach Scott Brooks (OAKAAKUYOAK) and several of his players have been struggling with the flu. The Knicks were flu-like: they flared, they scared, but in the end they always figured to be temporary.

The opening quarter was all ball movement, fast-breaking, Enes Kanter’s nightly quest for opening quarter double-doubles and a percolating THJ. After slumping to make just 5 of his last 44 three-point attempts, Hardaway hit his first five from downtown and an unsustainably blistering 12 of his first 13 shots. The Wizards were burning timeouts left and right, to no avail. If not for an inexplicable scoring burst by Ian Mahinmi, the Knicks may have put this game out of reach early. After the first quarter they were up 39-26, their highest scoring opening quarter all season and just two points shy of their highest frame all year.

Even Mahinmi’s offensive out-of-body experience couldn’t touch Hardaway’s 32-point first half supernova. Truly one of the great halves of shooting at 33rd and 8th I ever did see. A 15-0 run helped push the Knicks to a 68-41 lead with about three minutes left before the half, and nearly led this writer to hop in his car and drive around yelling at passerby that some of us been down for the THJ cause from the jump. A brief Washington flurry cut the lead to 21 at the break. What, me worry? The Knicks had pulled off their first 70+ point first half in six years. How does a team score that many points while making just five threes? By hitting 66% of their shots, that’s how. Early in the third, Hardaway hit a couple more shots and Twitter was all:

What could go wrong? Here’s a 90-second metaphor for the third quarter.

Everything could go wrong, and did. The Wizards began focusing their defensive attention on denying Hardaway, an utterly unpredictable and revolutionary tactic that completely flummoxed New York. While he was going 2 of 7 and getting most of his shots blocked in the third, Washington went 17 of 21. Some of those makes came off fast-break dunks after some somnolescent Hardaway turnovers. A Bradley Beal three in transition put the Wizards up 86-83. They’d outscore New York 39-15 in the quarter. The game was already a moral defeat. Still, we’d need another twelve minutes to make the L official.

While the Knicks as a whole were dazed and confused, Courtney Lee temporarily refused to lose, hitting shots early in the fourth to help claw them back toward the inevitably more gruesome finale. But the Wizards had found whatever elixir wards off half-ass efforts from lottery teams; Beal, Otto Porter, and Mahinmi were swishing, Washington was dishing, and the Knicks were fishing for wishes it’d stop. It didn’t. Your second half summarized in one play:

Notes:

  • So you probably noticed in that last clip Jarrett Jack was in the game late, rather than this guy:

Jack checked in for Frank Ntilikina with about 2:30 left in the game ‘cuz...well, why, exactly?

Jodie Meeks played 13 minutes. Also, Jodie Meeks? Jodie Meeks? Try again, Coach.

  • 24 points, 14 boards and a nickel bag of dimes for Enes Kanter. I’m increasingly comfortable with him opting out and leaving because I think he doesn’t fit in the future alongside Kristaps Porzingis late in games, and I think he’s going to want to be paid like someone who plays late in games. But his effort and production is just metronomically there, you know? He’s not the love of your life, but he’s there every night, he cooks (and cooks well), and the loving hits a lot of your right spots. I’m increasingly comfortable with him staying in New York a while, especially while Porzingis heals.
  • You know why shooters shoot? ‘Cuz this was not Michael Beasley’s day — he missed 14 of his first 19 shots. Human beings are conditioned to shy away after missing that many shots. But Beasley kept gunning and hit three of four shots late to cut the deficit to four.
  • Even when the Knicks were scorching in the first half, they weren’t really getting many assists. Meanwhile, the Wizards assisted on 31 of their 48 buckets. There’s a lesson there.
  • I went to the kitchen at halftime to grab a Choco Taco and I bet any spirits in earshot Hardaway, who had 32 at the break, wouldn’t reach 40. Not ‘cuz I was hating on the man. Hardaway right now reminds me of a worse-shooting, better overall version of Allan Houston, which essentially means he doesn’t remind me of Houston at all. The intersection for me comes from Houston being 25 when he signed as a free agent with New York, the same age THJ was when he signed. Houston’s first year as a Knick was rife with games where he’d put up 18, 19 in the first half and finish with 23. It took until his second season to sustain his dominance for full games. Timmy’s gonna learn a lot of tough lessons this year sans KP. It will pay off when this team’s playing meaningful games in May in 2020.
  • While tonight’s loss was epic, it also may have smelled familiar. It was.
  • Jack: 28 minutes. Emmanual Mudiay: 20. The franchise’s most important player with Porzingis out? 11.
  • Are you there, God? It’s me, Matthew. Can you speak to Mudiay about picking up his dribble so early after dribbling past a pick? After he gets one and meets any initial resistance from the defense, he picks his dribble and looks to pass back to someone behind the three-point line.
  • When English Premier League superpower Manchester City hired Pep Guardiola in 2016, Raheem Sterling was a talented offensive player who made beautiful moves but generally failed to deliver on them. Now Sterling has developed into a consistent threat under Guardiola and a real force up front. It’d be a real nice win if the Knicks can develop Mudiay, whose artistic impression is so Sí! but who’s soooo Nooo! at the rim, into a meaningful Knickerbocker.
  • There was one sequence in the first half when Kanter was posting Gortat, who may have flopped or may have legit gotten bulled over. As Gortat lay prostrate, Kanter threw down the uncontested dunk and may have landed right over and around Gortat’s dome. You could actually feel Gortat’s rage and sense of injustice through the TV screen. I feel like when Gortat is 83 and nearing the end of his life, he’ll get himself some hired goons and go Keyser Soze style after Kanter, everyone he knows, everyone who owes him money, etc.
  • Quasi Blue Cheese Fun Fact of the Night confirming the Knicks will win the title in 2021.
  • When the MSG cameras found Scott Brooks, the fiancee said he “sounds German in my head.” Never thought that before she said it. Will never be able to un-think it now.

Quoth 4RM370 4NTHONY: “The tank always wins.” The next “win” isn’t gonna be for a while, thanks to some Porzingis-less dreck the NBA is foisting on the masses this weekend. I’d watch Ntilikina in the Rookie/Sophomore game, but I imagine he’ll spend most of it on the bench while Jack inexplicably plays. Next game is Thursday the 22nd in Orlando.

xoxoxo