Fighting to hold on to their current position or possibly move up, the Wizards face a red-hot New York Knicks team that has risen to the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks have won 12 of their past 15 games and are currently percentage points up on the reeling Atlanta Hawks. They are playing their best basketball of the season at the right time and Coach Randy Wittman expects Friday’s game to have the feel of a playoff battle, especially with the sixth-place Wizards trying to catch Brooklyn and fend off Charlotte.
“This is always one of the fun places to come to, Madison Square Garden, to play the Knicks,” This place is going to be probably pretty electric tonight with where they’re at and trying to do what they’re trying to do also. It’s always a fun environment to play in.”
The environment is even better with a win, something the Wizards experienced for the first time in 11 games when the teams met on Dec. 16 in New York. Martell Webster scored a season-high 30 points but his performance was overshadowed by Bradley Beal, who scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter, including the game-winning layup.
“I don’t know if that’s necessarily the game that propelled us, but coming in here and winning a game like that, gives you confidence and I think we rode the momentum of that and played some good basketball after that,” Wittman said. “Winning early on the road helped us, with the mental part of it. I think we were all year long, pretty solid on the road.”
Carmelo Anthony has averaged 27.5 in both meetings, but he took an ill-advised three-pointer at the conclusion of the last meeting, leading to calls for Knicks Coach Mike Woodson to lose his job after failing to call a timeout to set up a play.
The Knicks (33-39) have had several low moments this season, but Amare Stoudemire’s return to relative good health and the starting lineup has played a big role in helping the team get back into the playoff picture. New York is 11-2 since Stoudemire became a starter. The move will mean that Trevor Ariza, and not Trevor Booker, will get the primary defensive assignment on Anthony.
“It’s going to be a tough matchup,” Booker said. “They’re high right now and they are fighting for that last seed in the East, so they are going to come out hype and ready to play, so we are going to have to match their energy. He’s one of the best scorers, if not the best scorer in the league, so it’s always a challenge. No one man can stop him. You’ve got to rely on the team and that’s what we’re going to do tonight.”
(TV: Comcast SportsNet. Radio: WJFK-106.7 MF, WFED-1500 AM).
Here’s some reading to get you ready for tonight’s game: