Wall approached Stoudemire to have some words, then Stoudemire followed Wall up the court, bumping Wall twice before Wall pushed back. There were more words. Stoudemire again shoved Wall, who had to be held back by his teammates. Both players were assessed technical fouls, but before the night was over, Wall and his teammates let the Knicks know that the Washington Wizards are no longer a pushover – especially with Wall back on the floor, and especially in their own building – as they pulled out an impressive 106-96 victory at Verizon Center and snapped a 10-game losing streak against New York.
“Most teams like us, in our situation, we get up for those big games. You want to prepare for those big games. You know it’s going to be a packed crowd. You don’t want to get blown out and start hearing the boo chants and stuff like that,” Wall said after scoring a team-high 21 points with nine assists. “Basically we’re just competing. We’re competing against every team we play against, no matter who it is. We know those type of teams are capable of knocking you out pretty early, but we just keep fighting.”
With some much-needed three-point shooting from Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster, solid interior play from Nene and Emeka Okafor and quality bench production from Chris Singleton, the Wizards (13-35) claimed their fifth victory at home against a division leader. The Knicks (31-16) joined Miami, Oklahoma City, Chicago and the Los Angeles Clippers, who lost on Monday in their lone visit to town.
“This is home, so we try to do our best to protect it,” Ariza said after making five three-pointers and finishing with a season-high 20 points.
The Wizards have made the Verizon Center a difficult place for visiting teams in recent weeks, winning seven of their past eight at home. But even with some of the best teams and biggest stars coming to town, their games never had the feel of a full-fledged event until Wednesday, when the Knicks arrived with most valuable player candidate Carmelo Anthony.
The game attracted celebrities, such as Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, Kentucky Coach John Calipari and a handful of Washington Redskins, and the crowd was involved on nearly every play.
The Wizards jumped out to an early 11-point lead andWall excited the crowd by rejecting an Anthony layup attempt, sprinting up the floor, spinning around Kidd and converting a difficult scoop shot.
“He’s a one-man break,” Anthony said of Wall.
The Knickswalloped the Wall-less Wizards, 108-87, on Nov. 30 in New York, where Anthony scored a game-high 20 points and didn’t have to play the fourth quarter. Before the game, Knicks Coach Mike Woodson acknowledged that the Wizards are much better team with Wall back in the lineup.