Wizards vs. Knicks: Amare Stoudemire scores 36 as Knicks top Wizards, 101-95, for seventh straight victory
Saturday, December 11, 2010; 12:31 AM
The Washington Wizards might finally be inching their way toward more consistency. Not only can they lose control of games on the road, they showed Friday night that they could also do it at home.
After an impressive second quarter let them build a double-digit lead over the New York Knicks, the Wizards came out flat to start the second half. They let a five-point halftime edge vanish in less than two minutes and shot miserably for the duration as a return to their home court failed to prove therapeutic in a 101-95 loss at Verizon Center.
Even with the return of injured starters John Wall and Andray Blatche, the Wizards lost their fourth consecutive game. Wall was a game-time decision after missing the last of the Wizards' three-game road trip out West with a sore left foot. He did not have his typical explosiveness with the ball and looked hesitant on his jump shots, making just 4 of 14 from the field.
"They did a good job of making me shoot it," said Wall, who sat out the final eight minutes of the third quarter after jamming his left thumb, but played the entire fourth quarter. "I didn't do a good job of knocking it down. . . . I should still try to attack. I was rushing it too much."
Before a crowd of 18,542 with split loyalties, the Knicks won their seventh in a row and 12th of 13. Amare Stoudamire was an overpowering force, scoring a game-high 36 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to the thrill of transplanted New Yorkers chanting "MVP, MVP" when he stepped to the free throw line late in the fourth quarter.
"When the Knicks come into town," Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas said, "it's like a neutral site."
The Wizards put together a solid, 31-point second quarter that reached its apex when Blatche hit a driving layup with a little more than five minutes left to give the Wizards their biggest lead, 45-33.
The Knicks, keyed by a couple of three-pointers from Wilson Chandler, cut the margin to 54-49 at the break, but the Wizards showed no hesitancy in the face of the league's hottest team.
The Knicks, however, came out inspired in the second half, hitting four of their first five shots and scoring on each of their first five possessions to turn a five-point halftime deficit into a 60-57 lead less than 21/2 minutes into the third quarter. Raymond Felton's long jumper a minute later made it 62-57.
The lead changed hands eight times the rest of the quarter before Felton's three-pointer from the left of the key with 32 seconds left in the quarter gave the Knicks the lead for good, 76-73.
The Knicks built an 11-point lead midway through the fourth quarter before Arenas, who scored just two points in the second and third quarters, came alive late. A 15-footer, a three-pointer from the top of the key and a driving layup accounted for seven consecutive Wizards points.
Two minutes later, keyed by a nice steal by JaVale McGee of an entry pass to Stoudemire, Arenas drove back down court and hit a layup high off the glass to pull the Wizards to 95-92 with 1 minute 36 seconds left.
The Knicks called a timeout and then looked inside for Stoudemire. McGee, just as he did on the previous possession, gambled on leaping in front for the steal, but this time he missed and was forced to foul Stoudemire, who made both free throws for a 97-92 lead.
The Wizards never got closer.
"Basically," Wizards Coach Flip Saunders said, "we played pretty good defense until that point. Young players always revert back to what you're most comfortable with. JaVale is most comfortable going for steals, going for blocks.
"In those situations, you have to be more disciplined. You have to make plays and not give them plays and that was a situation where we gave them a play."