By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 8, 2008
The Wizards and Knicks played at such a rapid pace last night, about the only thing in the building that did not bust a sweat was the 24-second shot clock.
It made for entertaining basketball, but for the Wizards, the final result was familiar: a 114-108 loss that dropped them to 0-4 and left a sellout crowd at Verizon Center wondering what happened to the team they watched win 43 games last season.
The Knicks (3-2) are quickly adapting to the fun-and-gun style favored by new coach Mike D'Antoni and they practically got off the bus shooting three-pointers. They opened the game by making three straight from long range, made 13 of 32 overall and placed five players in double digits while racking up 36 assists.
Still, the Wizards did plenty of good things and had a chance to take over when Caron Butler (30 points) got open underneath the basket, took a pass from Nick Young (16 points) and scored, giving his team a 103-102 lead with a little less than five minutes remaining.
The Knicks responded exactly the way D'Antoni wants them to, by quickly pushing the ball upcourt and finding Chris Duhon, who made a three-pointer.
The Wizards, who made 8 of 23 shots in the fourth, never led again.
"We're doing a lot of good things out there but we just could not get over that hump," guard Antonio Daniels said. "We cut it to one. Something would happen. We'd tie it up, they'd hit a three. We'd go ahead. They hit a three. We just couldn't get over that hump. When you play against a system like that, it's kind of hit or miss. If they take threes in transition and knock them down, you almost have to live with that. They made them."
The Wizards shot 51.7 percent and held a 50-36 advantage in rebounding but made only 5 of 16 three-point attempts and also missed eight free throws. Butler and Antawn Jamison (24 points, 12 rebounds) helped keep the pace offensively while rookie center JaVale McGee turned in his best performance of the season so far with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks in a season-high 30 minutes.
McGee's night was particularly interesting as the 7-footer missed a pair of easy alley-oop dunks, fumbled away a couple of rebounds and also had a goaltending call at each end of the court.
Then again, he also threw a charge into the crowd with some dunks and blocks. Veteran guard Juan Dixon, who has been the team's most consistent player through four games, came off the bench and chipped in with career highs of 11 assists and eight rebounds to go along with five points.
Dixon has always been known as more of a shooter than a passer, but when it comes to McGee, who has a 7-foot-6 wingspan to go along with tremendous leaping ability, the former Maryland star has figured out that simply throwing the ball in the general direction of the rim is a good idea.
After trailing 64-58 at halftime, the Wizards drew within 82-81 with 2:30 remaining in the third when Dixon tossed a pass high above the rim toward McGee, who stretched out, palmed the ball with his right hand and threw it down while drawing a foul on Wilson Chandler.
"He makes it real easy for you," Dixon said. "Just throw it up to the rim and he'll go get it."
The Wizards didn't have long to ponder after last night's defeat because they hopped a flight not long after the game and headed to Orlando, where they will face the Magic tonight.
Coach Eddie Jordan continues to juggle his rotation looking for the right mix and he's also trying to come up with a message that will get his team its first victory. The Wizards ripped off six straight wins after opening 0-5 last season, something Jordan talked about before the game.
"We have veterans with playoff experience and tonight we talked about taking a playoff-focused approach, because there was a real sense of urgency but we didn't get it done," Jordan said. "So let's see if we can relax and go the other way. Relax a little bit, go down to Florida and see if our veterans who sat a little longer today can bring energy and we can win a game."