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Knicks 113, Wizards 110: “Hezsanity grows”

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Amidst the darkness, there is light.

NBA: Washington Wizards at New York Knicks Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The worst team in Knicks history, the 2015 edition, was 15-64 entering game #80. Behind Cole Aldrich’s 19-point, 14 rebound effort they won a tight game against a sub-.500 Eastern conference prole. Despite a late flourish that season, Aldrich had seen his final days in a Knick uniform.

Last night the other worst team in Knicks history stood at 15-64 entering game #80 against the sub-.500 Washington Wizards. Behind Mario Hezonja’s third consecutive game-of-his-life, the Knicks won a tight one, 113-110. We won’t know for a few months whether Mario’s earned the right to re-up or if Hez has hosed us and this is just another kink in another machine that never ran right.

The biggest talking point from the Knicks’ last game was their opponents not bothering to sit through the end, so the hope was they’d come out showing some pride. They did. Mitchell Robinson led the charge.

Bradley Beal took 13 shots in the first quarter and made but three. There are other ways to leave your mark.

Meanwhile New York was getting contributions across the board. Henry Ellenson hit a few sideline three-pointers as part of an efficient evening’s work.

Then, per NBA rules and regulations, Washington’s Jeff Green started dominating, hitting turnarounds and baseline fadeaways like he was Michael Jeffrey Jordan. This was shaping up to be one of those thrice-a-year games where Jeff Green looks like what people used to hope he’d look like. 18 points in the second for Green.

You want more Wizard highlights, check out bulletsforever.com. This here’s a Knick site, friend-o. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Perhaps remembering he once played for the Knicks, Washington coach Scotty Brooks benched Green the whole second half. Bobby Portis was a reasonable facsimile in the third, scoring 11 and keying an 8-0 Wizard run to give them a 10-point lead. That was the gap entering the fourth.

For a while it felt like one of those games the Knicks would just never get over the hump. Luke Kornet and Dennis Smith Jr. were hitting shots; at one point New York had hit eight straight three-point attempts. Right after Kenny Albert announced that stat, Smith missed a three that would have given the Knicks the lead, followed by Hezonja missing a jumper that would have tied things. OAKAAKUYOAK alum Chasson Randle hit from deep to buttress Washington’s bulge. Hezonja missed a lay-up that would have evened things, followed by Robinson missing on the follow; Kornet had a shot at a three to re-take the lead, but missed.

In addition to Green’s mysterious benching, Beal was plastered to the bench late as well. To his credit, he made the most of it.

Hezonja would parlay a Robinson pick and a sneaky lil’ moving screen off-the-ball by John Jenkins to tie things at 103.

After being fouled in transition, Kevin Knox hit a free throw to put the Knicks up one. Robinson would block Randle at the rim, after which Hezonja found him for a near-oop and Mitch hit both foul shots. But the back-and-forth raged, unabated; after Knox missed a three, a Robinson goaltend put the Wizards back on top.

A DSJ pull-up gave New York a one-point lead. Randle drove and found Troy Brown Jr. for a corner three. Wizards up two. Speaking of two, that shot led to Clyde Frazier’s second “What can Brown do for you?” joke of the night. You know who’s no joke? Mario Hezonja.

Still time for the Wizards to draw something up. Beam ‘em up, Scotty.

Randle missed a desperation three and it was celebration time.

Such immense joy. Diletto straordinario!

Notes:

  • 30 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists for Hezonja. He’s intrigued this year both as a small-ball four and an oversized point guard. Have we seen that before in the blue-and-orange?
  • Unlocking Point Hezonja unveils he’s a more adept jump-passer than most folk. Paul Millsap is another gifted player in this regard; Zach Lowe touched on this recently.
  • Not really a great end of the season for Damyean Dotson. Single-digits in five of his last six games, 17-of-54 (31%) shooting.
  • The Knicks can pick no worse than fifth in this year’s draft. Should they When they fall there, would you consider trading the pick for Beal? What about fourth? James Marceda and Ashwin Ramnath will tell you I’m just mining the depths of your nightmares, but I’m curious how people rate Beal. Say Kevin Durant signs here but Kyrie doesn’t. Would you rather sign Kemba Walker outright, or trade for the presumably superior Beal? Mitch, KD, Knox, Beal, DSJ. You could do some things with that lineup.
  • This certainly wasn’t the best audition Beal could give. He shot poorly, suffered a scary-looking fall after a dunk late in the first quarter, hit the stanchion pretty good in the second half and and was knocked to the floor competing with teammate Thomas Bryant for a rebound.
  • Rebecca Haarlow reported that DSJ’s back isn’t feeling any better, but he’s playing anyway because “‘It was just way too hard to have sit back and watch...I wanna get back and help my teammates.’ And when you think about that, the culture that the Knicks are building, it just shows a lot that he wants to play in this game when these games don’t mean anything.” So Smith, centerpiece of the Kristaps Porzingis trade, has a bad back but is good to go. Meanwhile, Emmanuel Mudiay, who’s played juuuuust well enough to price himself out of New York, sits gift-wrapped on the bench while David Fizdale doesn’t want to risk an injury, citing “multiple teams are going to want to talk to him.” Why does this bother me so much? Is this Knick management playing free agency chess while I sit slack-jawed stuck in a checkers mentality?
  • I literally have no framework to guess what Haarlow earns from the MSG network. It does lead me to wonder how much money I’d have to make to stop caring about the actual quality of my work. She’s gonna pull a muscle continually trying to stretch everything a Knick does into something worthy of the Purple Heart.
  • Knick great Carl Braun and Liberty legend Teresa Weatherspoon are both 2019 inductees into the Naismith Hall of Fame. Sophia Witherspoon was my favorite back in the day, but Weatherspoon was the straw that stirred the Lib’s drink. I still remember flipping out when she pulled a Jerry West in the 1999 Finals.

As for Braun, the five-time All-Star who began his professional career with New York in the then-BAA’s second year of existence, the only Knicks to score more points in franchise history are Patrick Ewing, Frazier, Willis Reed and Allan Houston. And soon, Zion. Natch.

  • My favorite Knick jerseys are the classic road blues. Can we see those again one freaking time? Every road game now they wear the home whites; every home game they wear the alternate city jerseys, which are cool BECAUSE THEY’RE FREAKING ALTERNATES.

Quoth Melo’s Bucket Hat Collection: “...Hezsanity grows.” Only two more chances to see Mario wild and free in all this unregulated tanktastic glory. Next game (and next-to-last game this season) is Tuesday in Chicago. In 2015 the penultimate game was the infamous Tim Hardaway Jr. game that derailed the tank and gave us a world where Karl-Anthony Towns wastes away in Minnesota. This year’s Knicks have already clinched the best possible (top-three) lottery odds. Let’s hope Hezonja scores 50 Tuesday. We can warm ourselves with that memory when Chicago wins the lottery.