On Saturday, two of the NBA’s youngest and lowest ranking teams faced off in Washington, D.C. The Wizards faced fellow Eastern Conference bottom feeder, the New York Knicks. Washington entered the matchup with one win in their last six games, with that solo victory coming in a game against the Knicks just two games prior.
Washington entered the contest at 9-21 on the season, the third worst record in the Eastern Conference and fourth worst inthe NBA. New York, 8-24, has also struggled heavily, just a season after having one of the worst records in basketball. They found themselves with the second worst record in the league coming in.
Washington’s struggles stem from their constant battle with the injury bug. Between the injuries to John Wall, or big men Thomas Bryant and Moritz Wagner, Washington has been short-staffed all season. Washington was without All-Star Bradley Beal in this one due to leg soreness. Sharp-shooting big man Davis Bertans and rookie Rui Hachimura were both out as well.
The team has had to make a number of additions over the weeks with all of the injuries, including Gary Payton II, Anzejs Pasecniks, and Jonathan Williams. Washington has made use of their two-way contracts and two injury exceptions.
The Mitten makes his presence felt
After a slew of turnovers and bad shots to open up the game, Washington got on the board first when Gary Payton II made a two-point basket from just a couple of feet out. The red-hot Julius Randle responded with a three-pointer on the other end for New York. The first couple of minutes in the game seemed to be a battle between Payton and Randle, with Payton scoring the opening three buckets for Washington, and Randle knocking down the first two shots for New York.
The scoring was back and forth for the entirety of the quarter until roughly three minutes left when New York went on a scoring run. New York scored 17 straight points, with seven of those points coming from former Wizard Bobby Portis. A pair of Isaac Bonga free throws ended the drought for Washington. New York finished the quarter with a 33-23 lead.
In the second quarter, New York continued their scoring ways. Ish Smith knocked down a three-pointer with 9:30 remaining in the half to bring the game to single digits. Three straight three-pointers for Washington, including back-to-back for Payton and another by Isaiah Thomas, brought the Wizards within three points. A Marcus Morris three brought it back to a six-point deficit for Washington with under six minutes remaining.
Then, Washington put together a scoring run of their own, scoring 10 straight points to take a 48-44 lead. Each team continued to trade blows. With two seconds remaining, a three-pointer by rookie RJ Barrett sent it to the halfway point with New York up by one, 59-58.
Too much Julius Randle
Julius Randle, the catalyst for New York’s recent success, went on a scoring run in the third quarter. He scored three baskets and knocked down a free throw for eight of New York’s eleven points over a span of three minutes at the middle mark of the quarter.
A pair of Randle free throws brought New York back ahead by 12 with four minutes remaining. Isaac Bonga knocked down two free throws. An Ish Smith three-pointer took Washington into the final quarter down by just eight.
The game entered the final quarter with New York up 86-78. Washington scored seven straight points in the opening minute and a half to cut the deficit to just one point. After a Frank Ntilikiana basket for New York, Jordan McRae scored five straight points for Washington to give them their first lead since the first quarter.
The lead lasted 30 seconds before being reclaimed by New York for the final lead change of the game. Jordan McRae attempted to bring the game back with two straight three-pointers made with under a minute left, but came up short due to clutch free throws by the Knicks. The final score of the game was New York 107 – Washington 100.
Washington drops to 9-22 on the season, with their eighth loss in the last ten games. They are now just 4-8 on the season at home. New York improves to 9-24 on the season and 5-12 in away games. This is their fifth win in nine games.
McRae and Thomas led the way for Washington, with 20 points a piece for each of them. The recently acquired Payton II scored 15 points and had a game high six steals. Randle was the game’s leading scorer and rebounder, with 30 points and 16 rebounds respectfully. Former Wizard Portis scored 17 points with Barrett adding in 14 of his own.
Washington is back in action 12/30 at home against Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat. They will look to turn around their luck.