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Game Preview: Knicks at Wizards — 2/24/23

Hello, homestretch

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

After a mixed-bag performance from the select New York Knicks at All-Star weekend, the team is again whole as they travel to Washington D.C. to take on the Wizards. They may be wholer than they’ve been in a while, with Mitchell Robinson listed as questionable; if he can play it’ll be his first action since injuring his thumb five weeks ago. Evan Fournier is out with a non-COVID illness, which seems odd to keep emphasizing as such, since most illnesses are non-COVID. Bradley Beal is questionable for the home team with right knee soreness.

The Knicks remain neck-and-neck with the Heat in the fight for the sixth seed, with New York a half-game up. The 4/5 bracket is within shouting distance, with Brooklyn expected to drop and Cleveland good but not at the level of the East’s Big 3. While the Knicks have ripped off five wins in their last six games, nobody beats the Wiz, either, or at least not as often as you’d think. Washington won 10 of 14 before the break and have built some momentum in their annual drive to sneak in as a low seed and act like that means something.

This is the teams’ third meeting of four this season; they split the first two. They don’t seem likely to fight for playoff seeding, but it’s a big game for the Knicks beyond nearing the Nets while holding the Heat at bay. This is a conference game, which after head-to-head record is a possible tiebreaker, especially for teams from different divisions. This is where the Nets, Knicks, Heat and Atlanta Hawks currently stand on that front:

The Knicks need to keep winning these games to improve their chances of passing Brooklyn, who leads their season series 2-1 with one game left between them. Miami has a ton of conference games left; every win the Knicks can bank now puts them at a better position should they finish even with South Beach. The Hawks are trying to re-create the magic of firing their coach late in a season and the players responding. I won’t count them out until the body’s cold, so every win that creates or keeps the distance between them and us is a good thing.

If Mitch does play, keep an eye out on how Tom Thibodeau adjusts his rotation. Isaiah Hartenstein is healthier than he was early in the season and looks it, playing his best ball to date. Does Jericho Sims become as invisible in the rotation as he felt during the Slam Dunk contest? Does Josh Hart’s ascent to godhood mean less playing time for Quentin Grimes? Immanuel Quickley? RJ Barrett? Tune in, turn on and find out.