The Wizards’ defense rests – and never wakes up – in New York

April 10, 2013

Man, this guy’s pretty good…oh, we’re not supposed to just stand here and watch? (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

It probably wasn’t obvious when Carmelo Anthony spun around Chris Singleton along the baseline with ease and made a two handed dunk in the first half, but the Wizards actually entered their game on Tuesday against the New York Knicks ranked third in opponent’s field goal percentage.

And it really didn’t look like it when Steve Novak, Iman Shumpert and Chris Copeland knocked down four three-pointers apiece, but the Wizards actually arrived at Madison Square Garden ranked fifth in opponent’s three-point field goal percentage.

The Wizards (29-49) are one of the NBA’s best defensive teams but they were just another victim of a steamrolling Knicks team that has now won 13 straight after a lopsided, 120-99 victory. New York tallied the most points by a Wizards’ opponent this season and never had much concern about the outcome after drilling nine three-pointers in the first quarter alone.

“One of those games we just couldn’t stop them,” reserve point guard A.J. Price said afterward. “For whatever reason, we didn’t get no stops all night long.”

Washington knew exactly what it needed to do to have any chance of defeating the Knicks and snap a nine-game losing streak in New York. But the Wizards did let Anthony get loose for a game-high 36 points – including 21 in the third quarter alone – and left three-point shooters wide open as the Knicks to match their franchise record with 20 shots from beyond the arc. They also continued a disturbing trend of embarrassing losses in New York, where the Wizards lost both road games this season by 21 points.

Trevor Ariza sat out with soreness in his left knee and said he would meet with the Wizards’ doctors on Wednesday to determine the source of a problem that has been plaguing him for weeks but got worse in the fourth quarter on Sunday in Boston.

“My knee is bothering me a little bit,” Ariza said. “I’m going to see what we can do to try to strengthen it so that I continue to play. It was just sore. Kind of sore. Hurts pretty bad.”

Ariza may have been able to work Anthony work a little harder for his points, but he likely wouldn’t have had much more success than Martell Webster and Singleton, the primary  Anthony defenders. Anthony has been on a torrid pace in the past two weeks, averaging 37.8 points on 61.1 percent shooting in his past six games.

“We knew he was on a hot streak,” said John Wall, who tried to keep up by scoring a team-high 33 points. “We tried to get the ball out of his hands but he’s very efficient and scores in various ways. Carmelo played great.”

Price said, “In my opinion, he’s the best scorer in the game. only guy that can post up, shoot threes, no weaknesses on the offensive end. Really not much you can do with him.”

Anthony did most of his damage in the third quarter, after the Knicks had already bombarded the Wizards with a barrage of three-pointers. Four different players made two three points in the first quarter alone. When Novak made a three-pointer to give the Knicks a 41-29 lead in the second quarter, the Knicks had as many three pointers as the Wizards had field goals (10). The Knicks shot 56.3 from the field and 55.6 percent from three-point range.

“We didn’t rotate as good as we could have but they were also making shots, especially in the first half,” guard Garrett Temple said. “When they shoot like that, they are a tough team to beat and we knew coming into the game that we were going to have to defend the three-point line and we weren’t able to do that.”

The Wizards’ defensive intensity has been slipping, with them also surrendering 107 points to Boston in their previous loss. They allowed 100 points in the consecutive games for just the third time since Wall returned, but the Wizards defeated Denver and Houston and split games against Phoenix and Charlotte.

This is the first time, however, that both teams shot better than 50 percent from the floor; the Celtics shot 55.8 percent. The Wizards will now move on to host the defending champion Miami Heat on Wednesday at Verizon Center.

“It don’t get no easier. Got the Heat next,” Wall said. “We got a tough little stretch but we got to fight through it, find a way to win some games and finish the season strong. I know I’m not giving up. I know my team is not giving up. We’re going to keep pushing these next four games we’ve got.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · April 9, 2013