The New York Knicks took vacation one quarter early, falling to the Washington Wizards before departing for the All-Star break.
NEW YORK, NY—Madison Square Garden felt like eighth-period math class right before a break from school. Everyone in the building, the New York Knicks included, seemed to be watching the clock, waiting for the final bell to dismiss the class.
That dismissal eventually came, but the Knicks were on the losing end against the Washington Wizards, 114-96. The Wizards completed the MSG sweep on the season.
“I do love playing here, I think we all do,” Bradley Beal told reporters after the game. “It’s the Garden, you just automatically get hyped. Maybe we need to play all of our games here.”
That wouldn’t be good for the Knicks, who played one of their sloppiest games of the season on Wednesday.
Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy
Sloppiness ruled the night. The Knicks and Wizards opened up the evening by playing a game of hot potato with the basketball. A flurry of turnovers and missed shots dominated the early stages of the game, but the Wizards would eventually settle into a rhythm while the Knicks continued to struggle.
“We felt pretty good early even though we weren’t making shots, we were able to keep that in check and stay in the game,” interim head coach Mike Miller said. “As it went on, we continued to not make shots and we had too many turnovers. I think it affected the other end negatively.”
New York turned the ball over 20 times while only dishing out 19 assists. In terms of hitting shots, the stat sheet doesn’t provide much relief. The Knicks shot 3-for-23 (13%) from beyond the arc compared to Washington’s respectable 10-for-28 (35.7%) mark.
Miller’s group was able to hang around for three quarters, but by the fourth, the missed shots and turnovers were too much to overcome.
Bradley Beal isn’t an All-Star
The last time Beal came to Garden, he put up 38 shots en route to 30 points and a six-point victory. Despite his inefficiency—namely his 2-for-11 three-point shooting that night—Beal had no option but to look for his shot. The Wizards were woefully shorthanded in that game but still pulled out the victory.
On Wednesday, Beal had much more help from his supporting cast and was able to reach 30 points on 15 fewer shots. Having Rui Hachimura and Davis Bertans—two key guys who missed the first two Knicks-Wizards games—back certainly helped, but Beal is the straw that stirs the drink.
“He is a great player. He came in here and did what he needed to do and I wish the best for him next year,” Mitchell Robinson said after finding out Beal didn’t make the All-Star Game. “I feel like he should have been in it. He’s played very well for the whole season.”
When push came to shove, the Wizards had Beal—a two-time All-Star—in the fourth quarter and the star guard came up clutch. His 10 fourth-quarter points led all scorers and paved the way for Washington’s comfortable victory.
Kevin Knox was a part of the deep 13-man rotation on Wednesday night, but if you weren’t paying close attention, it was easy to miss him. The long and lanky forward broke up a few plays on defense and rarely looked completely lost on that end. That would feel like a small step in the right direction if he had provided any type of production on offense.
In the first half, Knox played 7:29 in total without registering a single stat. He didn’t record a single rebound, assist, or any type of shot in the first half. With Knox canning just one mid-range jumper, the second half wasn’t much different.
The sophomore slump continues. Perhaps the break will help the second-year forward clear his head and find a rhythm for the first time this season.
In his pregame press conference, Miller declared the Knicks at “full strength” and he wasn’t kidding. New York played all 13 available players, but few combinations clicked for the interim head coach. In the first half, 12 guys played with Damyean Dotson being the odd man out. Miller reached deep into his bench again in the second half, this time choosing to play everyone but Dennis Smith Jr.
“We were trying everybody, we gave everybody a chance tonight to see if they could give us a quick spark because even though we were struggling to score consistently we were still in the game,” Miller said.
A 13-man rotation isn’t a realistic proposition for the Knicks going forward so there are going to be some tough calls when the team returns from this extended break. Knox, Smith, and Frank Ntilikina are all struggling off the bench, but opting to play veterans like Bobby Portis and Wayne Ellington over the young core seems counterproductive.
Miller danced around development questions before and after the game. The push to win games and the need to develop young players is going to be a major storyline post-All-Star break. What else is new?
Maurice Harkless makes his debut
The two draft picks were front and center in the Marcus Morris Sr. trade, but don’t forget about Maurice Harkless. The eight-year veteran made his debut in the orange and blue, scoring four points while scooping up five rebounds and dishing out two assists.
“It was pretty cool honestly,” Harkless, 26, told reporters after the game. “It was something I dreamed about as a kid so to be able to come out here and do it is kind of crazy. Being from New York, like I said, is a dream come true.”
It was a forgettable debut for the former St. John’s star who hails from Queens, but it could take him some time to find his groove in the Big Apple. It’s also worth noting that he was under the weather recently.
The Knicks could use a break after that lackluster performance. The good news is they’ll be off for the next nine days before welcoming the sixth-place Indiana Pacers (32-23) to MSG on Feb. 21.