By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 16, 2008 1:46 PM
NEW YORK, Jan. 15 -- With Gilbert Arenas back in Washington blogging that he plans on returning from knee surgery after the all-star break and Antonio Daniels looking like a member of the coaching staff on the bench, the Washington Wizards were again forced to ask Roger Mason Jr., their backup shooting guard, to masquerade as a starting point guard on Tuesday night against the New York Knicks.
The Wizards were also playing their fourth game in five nights in four different cities. But Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan wasn't going to blame a 105-93 loss at Madison Square Garden on tired legs or the bad legs of Arenas and Daniels. "That's no excuse for us," Jordan said. "We've got to find a way to summon up a lot of concentration, a lot of energy and get it done."
There weren't going to be many residuals from their dramatic comeback victory in Boston the night before, when the Wizards overcame a 14-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat a Celtics team possessing the league's best record. Those good vibes were wiped out relatively quickly against the team with the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks (11-26) jumped out to a 17-5 lead in the first six minutes of the game and they built a 22-point lead midway through the second quarter.
The Wizards (20-17) crawled back and cut the huge deficit to single digits in the second half, but the Knicks thwarted every run with a jumper from Jamal Crawford or Nate Robinson, or by pounding it inside to Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry. Crawford led all scorers with 29 points, as he nailed six of the Knicks' season-high 11 three-pointers.
"First thing we told them, forget about [Monday] night. This is a whole new 48 minutes," said Jordan, who was called for a technical foul in third quarter for arguing with an official. "We said 'This is a very dangerous team. On a given night, they can really hurt you.' " Caron Butler had a team-high 24 points and Antawn Jamison had 21 as the Wizards dropped to 17-12 in the absence of Arenas. The three-time all-star hinted on his blog on NBA.com that he could be returning next month. "I plan on coming back," Arenas wrote. "I'm going to be working out with the team. I'm going to be going full blast after All-Star."
When told about Arenas's comments, Jordan said, "I don't comment on Gilbert's blog. I'm a fan of it, but I don't have anything to say about it."
Of course, the Wizards were also without Daniels, who was scratched shortly before the game after experiencing some soreness in the same right knee he sprained in Miami on Dec. 13. The Wizards are now 4-4 without Daniels and Arenas in the lineup.
Daniels, who had led the Wizards to a 14-7 mark with him in the starting lineup said he "no question, definitely" will play on Friday when the teams have a rematch at Verizon Center. "I don't want to be at the point where I'm hurting the team," Daniels said. "I didn't feel real good today."
The Knicks definitely didn't feel sorry for the Wizards. They are in the midst of another disappointing and dysfunctional season, and played their second consecutive game without starting point guard Stephon Marbury. The Wizards also weren't the only team coming off a victory against the Eastern Conference's elite. The Knicks beat the Detroit Pistons by 24 points two days before.
Although the Knicks played well, their fans didn't seem to notice as they spent most of the night celebrating non-basketball playing New York athletes. Mets third baseman David Wright and several members of the Giants, who will participate in the NFC championship game in Green Bay on Sunday, received ovations from the crowd. At least Knicks embattled team president and coach Isiah Thomas got a reprieve from the "Fire Isiah" chants that have filled the arena this season.
"I keep telling people they are a good team. When you get behind 20, 25 points, its hard to come back from a deficit like that," Butler said. "The good thing about it, we see the same team on Friday. It'll be a good game. It's a challenge that we'd love to face."
Mason finished with 20 points. Robinson and Randolph both had 14 for the Knicks.