The New York Knicks (25-21) started the game down seven, saw the distance grow to a 14-3 deficit barely three minutes into the game, and could do nothing to stop Washington from earning a final 116-105 victory at MSG.
It’s now been 11 wins and 13 losses playing New York City basketball for the Knickerbockers, something—a losing record on their own arena—only five other teams are doing this season: Orlando, San Antonio, Detroit, Charlotte, and Houston.
Now go and check where those organizations are in the NBA standings.
“Overall we didn’t play well,” coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game. “We were playing from behind all night. That hurt us. They came out and they were making shots early. They got a lot of confidence from that. I thought they played really well. We missed shots. We couldn’t get our defense untracked.”
Washington (19-26) tied the regular-season series between both teams at one apiece with the next meeting coming on Feb. 25.
The Wizards arrived in New York with Bradley Beal back on the lineup and leading his squad after missing a bunch of games. The outcome? 18 points, four assists, and four rebounds. That’s more points than all but two Knicks (RJ Barret’s 21 and Jalen Brunson’s 32) and a game-high number of dimes.
Kristaps Porzingis was hella happy. “It was better. It was less booing,” Porzingis said after finishing the game with a 22-point, 11-rebound double-double to which he added five assists and a couple of swats. “I think some fans are easing up on me on this point. I got a lot of support today. I saw kids with my jersey, trying to give me high-fives and tell me to come back to New York and it was cool to see some support again.”
Brunson led all Knickerbockers in the scoring department but the team was always going to struggle after Mitchell Robinson went down injured after logging just nine minutes of play.
“I think we, myself included, eased into this game a little bit,” Brunson said. “On the forefront of our minds, when we play a team that we just beat at their place, we got to know they’re going to come out with a different type of intensity, especially when you play them less than a week ago. They came out ready to play.”
Robinson sprained his right thumb in the first quarter and he left the game entirely just a few minutes into the second period.
“Mitch is the anchor for our defense,” RJ Barrett said after the game. “Him going out is an adjustment for sure,” added Barrett. “The rebounds, blocked shots, everything. Just the factor that people don’t want to go into the paint as much against him. You’re losing that big time and all the offensive rebounds he gets. He’s a big part of our team.”
Barrett and Julius Randle combined to grab 22 rebounds between them but the latter got the bulk of that tally with 15 and no other Knicks player pulled down more than five boards.
New York’s starters struggled shooting the rock on Wednesday, with the three highest-volume shooters (Barrett, Randle, and Brunson) hitting 26-of-62 total field goals on the night.
Jericho Sims was the man tasked with taking on Robinson’s vacated minutes, getting 21 and finishing with four rebounds, two dimes, two points, and two blocks in that time off the pine. Quickley added 18 points and five rebounds.
IQ and Sims started the fourth quarter hot and brought the Knicks closer to the Wiz making it a 90-83 affair. That wouldn’t last that much, though, in a game that New York trailed wire-to-wire.
“We’ve just got to work our way through it,” Thibodeau said. “You’re going to hit different things during the course of the season. Get back, be mentally tough. We’ve got to make it go our way.”
Randle wasn’t pleased with the team’s defense, claiming “that’s not our type of basketball as far as defensively,” before adding that the Knicks “just kind of [let] them do whatever they wanted.”
As witnessed and reported by Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, a fan openly offered his sincere feelings to the squad at the end of Wednesday’s game at MSG. “You guys suck,” he said. “Write that there was no heart,” that same fan told the press.
We feel you.
New York goes on the road starting with a visit to the Atlanta Hawks (23-22) on Friday before moving north of the border next Sunday. Two losses in a row, how many more to come? Only time and Trae will tell.