Four Washington Wizards (18-39) reached double-digit points Friday night against the New York Knicks (35-20), but Carmelo Anthony took matters into his own hands, contributing 30 points and six rebounds to the Knicks’ 96-88 victory at the Verizon Center.
It was a record-setting night for Bradley Beal as he set a new career single-game high with 29 points and broke the Wizards’ franchise record for most three-pointers in a season by a rookie. With 25 games left to play this season, Beal will likely shatter the previous record of 75, set by Steve Blake in 2003-04.
The Wizards were without Nene – sidelined with a sore right shoulder – and A.J. Price – who sat out with a bruised right thigh. Additionally, they were without a strong home base, as a large percentage of the 20,308 in attendance had transformed the Verizon Center into Madison Square Garden South.
Fortunately for Washington fans, however, John Wall did return to true form after having posted just six points Wednesday night against the Detroit Pistons.
“He has to continue to play hard and play through it – play through mistakes and play through missed shots, which I thought he did that tonight,” said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman after the game. “Things will turn for the better if we continue to have the attitude we play with and have everyone on the same page, we will be fine.”
Nevertheless, Wall’s 16 points and six assists were no match for Anthony’s Knicks.
New York sent one through the net first on Anthony’s pull-up shot to start the game, but Martell Webster helped the Wizards step in front with back-to-back jumpers, the second of which came from behind the arc.
From there, the lead alternated back and forth between the Knicks and the Wizards throughout the entire first half. Neither team did much in terms of defense, although the Wall-versus-Anthony matchup brought with it its fair share of gems.
The first of such noteworthy sequences came with 3:08 remaining in the first quarter when Chris Singleton blocked Anthony in time to allow Wall to dish to Beal for the jumper to make it 21-17 Wizards.
The Knicks’ Steve Novak retaliated, however, with back-to-back jumpers, including a 23-footer, to put New York on top, 22-21.
And there the Knicks remained until two and a half minutes into the second quarter, when Garrett Temple tied the game with a jumper fed by Trevor Ariza to make it 31-all.
The lead switched hands nine times consecutively until Anthony went to the line to give the Knicks a 42-40 lead. On the next play, Wall scrambled through traffic to the net and before the ball could rattle out, Kevin Seraphin tipped it in to tie the game.
But, the Knicks closed out the half on a 9-0 run, fueled by back-to-back threes by J.R. Smith to bring New York to a 54-48 lead. By the end of the night, Smith tallied 13 points and 12 rebounds in the Knicks’ rout.
The start of the second half bared a striking resemblance to a casual backyard pickup game where Wall and Anthony seemed to challenge one another in unspoken battles to see who could run the fastest, jump the highest or come up with the biggest block.
At the same time, the rest of the Wizards’ offense regained momentum. With 3:15 remaining in the third, Beal made one of his four three-pointers on the night to bring Washington within one, down 69-68.
Beal continued his hot streak with a floater and, not a minute later, he hit another three to put the Wizards up 75-71. Nevertheless, the Wizards closed out the third clinging to an all-but-reassuring 77-73 lead.
With the game tied at 77 points apiece, the Wall-versus-Anthony matchup became even more heated as Wall laid down a huge block on Anthony at the net. The referees erroneously ruled the block a goaltending violation, and Wall landed a technical after reacting to the call.
Anthony’s technical free throw put the Knicks back in front and they held onto the lead for the remainder of the game, despite yet another three by Beal to pull the Wizards within a point with just over four minutes left to play.
Anthony later squeezed in a three of his own in the midst of many foul shots until the Knicks closed the book on the Wizards with a 96-88 win.
“It was a tight game,” Wittman said. “But our guys battled, I don’t have a complaint about that. We stayed with what we wanted to do and did a good job of it. Against a team like this, you can’t miss 10 free throws and a combination of other things. For us, we have to be better at the free throw line and take care of the ball down in crunch time. Those are the main things we have to concentrate on and do a better job.”