After reaching the conference semifinal, finding themselves with a 3-9 record just wasn’t something the New York Knicks planned. No Tyson Chandler, no Raymond Felton and a Carmelo Anthony getting more and more frustrated by the minute following a 89-98 loss to the Washington Wizards, led by John Wall with 31 points.
It’s not that the Wizards have been doing so well themselves up to this point. After trading away Emeka Okafor and his neck problems, the team hasn’t been able to find a defensive anchor while their offensive talent hasn’t really come through yet. However, against the Knicks, everything works out. Even John Wall putting on a defensive show with a huge block on Iman Shumpert.
Wall finished with 31 points on 10-of-17 shooting, adding 7 assists to his awful 7 turnovers. However, the important thing was constantly attacking the weak Knicks’ paint, finding it quite easy to blow past their horrendous defense, getting ever worst with Beno Udrih starting for Felton.
Marcin Gortat scored 16 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in his best performance as a Wizards player so far, as the upgrading factor called Andrea Bargnani helped another center put on a few points and rebounds to his average.
On the Knicks? Despair. Mike Woodson doesn’t know what to do with a team that’s playing like it was built to do: Pass the ball to Carmelo Anthony and hope for the best, only without a shred of defense or intelligence on offense. Other players are trying, but there’s no system or rhythm to anything they’re doing on offense, which makes Beno Udrih take up 7 shots (hitting only one), Andrea Bargnani go for 5-of-14 from the field en route to 11 points. Carmelo Anthony did score 23 on 9-of-19 from the field, but it was easy for the Wizards defense to get the ball out of his hands, not really worried about leaving other players open.
It’s a very tough time. This is a time where you could easily put your head down and mope around, but I can’t do that. We didn’t put a full 48 minutes together tonight, and in that one quarter, they took advantage.
Anything to feel hopeful about on the horizon? Not much. Amare Stoudemire did hit all of his field goal attempts, but as he can’t play more than 20-25 minutes on most nights, it’s not a great comfort. The rest is just random offense and defense. No one penetrating to find shooters on the outside, no movement to become open. Just a bunch of players who think they should be with a better record just for being on a team that did well last season.
For the Wizards, there are more reasons to be smiling. Not just Wall finding some sort of groove, but Gortat feeling more and more comfortable as the starting center. Most of all? The very weak competition in the Eastern conference, which means that a team playing badly on half of their games and are a 5-8 at this stage has nothing to worry about, possibly even being in the top 8 of the conference.