By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 23, 2008
NEW YORK, Nov. 22 -- If the Wizards didn't hit bottom Saturday night with a 122-117 loss to the short-handed Knicks, it's downright scary to think about what bottom could be.
Because of a pair of trades New York made Friday, shipping out leading scorers Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford, Coach Mike D'Antoni had just eight players in uniform and the Knicks were playing just 24 hours after absorbing a beating at Milwaukee.
Even after the Wizards appeared ready to take control of the game in the fourth quarter, the Knicks summoned the energy and shot-making to pull away.
For a Madison Square Garden crowd that is essentially waiting for the summer of 2010 when the Knicks are expected to make a run at signing LeBron James, it was like finding a forgotten $100 bill in an old pair of jeans.
For the 1-10 Wizards, who matched the 1966-67 Baltimore Bullets for the worst start in franchise history, it was a total embarrassment.
The Knicks (7-6) connected on 16 of 36 three-point attempts, had four players score 20 or more points, including small forward Quentin Richardson (34 points, 12 rebounds), and repeatedly out-hustled the Wizards to loose balls and offensive rebounds.
The night was personified by diminutive Knicks guard Nate Robinson, who is listed at 5 feet 9 but appears to be about two inches shorter. Robinson scored 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting and had more rebounds (six) than all but two Wizards.
Antawn Jamison led the Wizards with 29 points and 13 rebounds and Caron Butler finished with 23 points but Washington made only 6 of 20 three-pointers and struggled to match the Knicks' quickness throughout the game.
"I wasn't even 1-10 with Golden State and we won 10 games one year," Jamison said.
Actually, the Warriors never won fewer than 17 games during Jamison's five-year stint with the franchise but he made his point regardless.
Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan warned his team not to take the Knicks lightly before the game. Jordan had seen the Knicks blitz his team with 13 three-pointers in New York's 114-108 win at Verizon Center on Nov. 7 and he was fully aware that under D'Antoni, the Knicks would have no problem employing a smallish lineup that would feast on quick ball movement, hustle and three-point shooting.
Jordan certainly didn't feel that his team had a huge advantage facing such a short-handed opponent.
"I told them the opposite," Jordan said in his pregame chat with reporters. "I told them the Knicks see a 1-9 team and they are licking their chops. So, we've got to be aware of the tempo, aware of the matchups because they will go small and be aware of long rebounds because we know they are going to shoot threes, so there are a lot of traps out there for us if we're not focused and we think we've got a team that's down."
After trailing by 11 in the first quarter, by six in the second and by as many as six in the third, the Wizards made their move when Butler followed a pair of Jamison free throws by making a three-pointer from the top of the paint, cutting the New York lead to 91-89 at the end of the third.
Jamison gave the Wizards a 94-91 lead on a three-pointer with 10:52 left and Butler pushed the lead to five with a pair of free throws. But just when it appeared that the Wizards were going to take control, the Knicks responded. Robinson made a three-pointer, Wilson Chandler answered a three-pointer by Nick Young (17 points on 6-of-10 shooting) with a turnaround jumper and Richardson made it 104-101 New York with a jumper in transition.
From there, the Knicks kept applying pressure and when Richardson slipped into the lane for layup, giving New York a seven point lead with 1:03 to play, the Wizards cracked.
One night after Houston outscored the Wizards 33-14 in the fourth en route to a 103-91 win, the Knicks finished with a 31-28 edge in the final quarter.
"A bunch of these games have been the same," said shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson. "We get a lead and can't hold on or the other team makes a bunch of big shots to beat us. It's the same thing every game. It's frustrating."