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Wizards Aim to Slow Things Down in Rematch With Knicks

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By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 16, 2009

When the Wizards came out and started knocking down jump shots at the start of Wednesday night's game against the Knicks in New York, interim coach Ed Tapscott was happy about the shot-making but also sensed that his team was getting sucked into a game it couldn't win.

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He was right.

Even though the Wizards shot 59.7 percent, made 10 three-pointers and received a 33-point effort from reserve guard Nick Young, the game was played at New York's up-tempo pace and the Knicks went on to an entertaining 128-122 victory.

When the teams meet again tonight at Verizon Center in a rare home and home series, the Wizards, who have lost six straight, will try to avoid a repeat.

"They want to try and make you play fast," Tapscott said. "They did a better job of imposing their playing style on the game than we did ours. Now, the offensive tape looks good for us. We scored a lot of points and normally 122 points wins you a lot of basketball games, but we didn't get our defensive play up at all."

The Wizards (7-31) are having a hard time winning games in any fashion, but they certainly can't be successful when allowing an opponent to shoot 53.8 percent while making 14 three-pointers, as the Knicks did Wednesday night.

New York, which relied on an eight-man rotation, finished with only a 33-29 rebounding edge but hurt the Wizards with timely offensive rebounds. On one third-quarter possession, Knicks forward David Lee hustled his way to three offensive rebounds and earned a pair of free throws. Keeping Lee, who finished with 30 points and 10 rebounds, off the glass will be crucial if the Wizards are going to snap the losing streak.

Tapscott stressed defense and rebounding during a light practice yesterday at Verizon Center.

"We decided to go with more of a mental practice more than anything physical because we are going to play the same team," Tapscott said. "With their pace, you want rested legs. And another key is, how do we impose our style of play on the game with more effectiveness? How do we get that game to a slower tempo?"

One thing the Wizards don't want to do is mess with Young, who is playing some of the best basketball of his life. In the past four games, he has made 71.7 percent of his shots, is averaging 25.8 points and has posted a career-high in scoring three times.

"He's on a roll," said forward Caron Butler, who scored 25 points Wednesday night to break out of his slump. "He's scoring at a rapid pace. I don't think he even played in the first quarter [Wednesday night] and he had 30 some points in three quarters. That's unbelievable. To come out and be aggressive as he has, it's incredible. It says a lot about him as a player."

Young attributes his recent hot streak to watching old tapes of himself and games of one-on-one and two-on-two that he has played with injured guard Gilbert Arenas.

"Gil's been staying after practice with me, getting up extra shots with me and that's helped," Young said. "I get him sometimes but he doesn't like to lose. I'll be up and he'll just walk off the court."

Arenas, who continues to rehabilitate his surgically repaired left knee but has not yet been cleared to practice, says he still holds a mental edge over his young teammate.

"I get in his head," Arenas said. "But he can put that ball in the hole. He can do that."

The key for Young in upcoming games will be to handle the increased defensive pressure he will likely see in the form of double-teams and other tactics to keep the ball out of his hands.

"That's okay," Young said. "The more Caron [Butler] and Antawn [Jamison] get going, they can worry less about me. That way I can just sneak in. Get them going early and then I can come and be that spark off the bench."

Wizards Note: Injured guard DeShawn Stevenson recently had a second injection to relieve pressure on a disk in his lower back and remains out indefinitely.

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