By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 26, 2006
The New York Knicks have a roster filled with semi-stars such as Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, Eddy Curry and now Steve Francis. It's a high-profile, highly compensated group that has yet to form anything resembling a true basketball team.
The Wizards appear to have a roster filled with solid basketball players, including at least one true superstar in guard Gilbert Arenas.
Seldom has the difference between two such teams been so glaring as last night when the surging Wizards (29-25) dominated the woeful Knicks from the opening tip to the final buzzer en route to a comfortable 110-89 win in front of a sellout crowd of 20,173 at MCI Center.
Arenas, who scored 23 of his 46 points in the first quarter, lost a chance to surpass his career-high of 47 because the game was well in hand after three quarters. With a potentially tough contest coming up tomorrow night in Memphis, Coach Eddie Jordan decided to rest his star.
"I was just coaching the game," Jordan said. "I'm coaching with respect for our opponent, I'm coaching with respect for us. . . . We all know. Everyone in this arena and in this organization knows that we have a special player."
The amazing thing about Arenas's performance is that it appeared to come so easily. He torched Marbury, Francis, Crawford and any other New York player unfortunate enough to wind up in front of him.
After making 13 of 16 shots, including 7 of 10 three-pointers, and 13 of 14 free throws, Arenas watched the fourth quarter from the bench as rookies Donell Taylor and Andray Blatche and reserve forward Awvee Storey finished off the Knicks.
"I was just on fire tonight," said Arenas, who obviously still hasn't gotten over not being voted into the All-Star Game by Eastern Conference coaches. "It was just one of those nights where you're feeling it and you're in a zone. I was thinking that one of the Eastern Conference coaches was coming in here and my mind was set on ready."
Arenas, who continues to refer to himself as an "assassin," has scored 40 or more points eight times this season.
The Wizards are 3-0 since the all-star break, have won nine straight at MCI Center and are 20-9 at home this season. The win moves the Wizards within 2 1/2 games of fourth-place Cleveland in the Eastern Conference.
Last night's game was never close. Washington led 38-27 at the end of the first quarter and 71-45 at halftime. The Knicks (15-40) never drew within 20 the rest of the way. They are tied with Charlotte for the fewest wins in the league.
Knicks Coach Larry Brown summed it up like this: "When you can have [Jared] Jeffries take the ball out of bounds, dribble the length of the court and dunk it down, that'll give you an indication of our defense."
Through three quarters, before Jordan turned to his reserves, the Wizards shot 54.4 percent and held the Knicks to 40 percent shooting. Marbury led the Knicks with 15 points but they all came in the first half; Marbury left the game at halftime with shoulder soreness.
Francis, the former Maryland star who was acquired from Orlando in a trade on Wednesday, scored nine points and shot 3 of 9 in his second game as a Knick.
The Wizards moved to four games above .500 for the first time since starting the season 5-1 and are riding the franchise's longest home winning streak since the 1989 Bullets won 15 straight.
"We came out and took care of business early," said Wizards forward Caron Butler, who finished with eight points and three rebounds in 25 minutes. "We played good team basketball and then Gilbert was blazing. He just came ready to play and he carried us."
Wizards Note: Blatche played for the first time in eight games. He entered the game in the second quarter and promptly swished a three-pointer from the wing. In 18 minutes, Blatche scored eight points on 1-of-5 shooting.