NEW YORK — For two and a half quarters, the Wizards just seemed to be hanging around. On Friday night at Madison Square Garden, the Wizards played just well enough to keep pace with the Knicks. Until the halfway point in the third quarter that is. Then the Knicks shifted into another gear and the Wizards simply couldn't keep up, losing 108-87.
In the end, it was just a slightly better performance by the Wizards than the last time they came to New York to play the Knicks in a regular season game. It was back on April 13, and they got run out of the gym to the tune of a 103-65 loss in a game than was over shortly after tipoff.
"The first and third quarter again were not good for us," said Wizards coach Randy Wittman. "Our handling the ball, whenever we turn it over like that, it puts you in a bind."
The Wizards recorded just 11 assists, turned the ball over 17 times and shot just 57.1 percent from the line in the 21-point drubbing on Friday. The Knicks, by contrast, had 24 assists, eight turnovers and shot 53.1 percent from the floor.
"It was a bad game for us," Bradley Beal said. "Our mental focus wasn't there. I think we were trying to worry too much about our offense rather than getting stops. They got whatever they wanted."
Wittman kept his starters the same as he did against Portland - going with Trevor Ariza, Kevin Seraphin, Emeka Okafor, Bradly Beal and A.J. Price – his fourth lineup in 14 games. But with a hobbled Nene, no John Wall and no Trevor Booker, Wittman simply doesn't have the pieces to content with Knicks stars Carmelo Anthony (20), J.R. Smith (20) and Tyson Chandler (12).
"We weren't making shots and that affected how we played on defense," Beal said. "We're still thinking about that last shot instead of moving on to the next play and trying to get a stop, trying to get the ball back. We were just all over the place."
The Wizards were led by Jordan Crawford (17) and Beal added (14). The Wizards are last in the league in scoring (89.5) and as of Friday's loss are on pace for a six-win season.
"They were just one step head of us tonight," A.J.Price said. "They were just better than us tonight. It was more them than us tonight. They're a good offensive team. Tonight, we just weren't prepared the way we should have been defensively."
The Wizards are now 1-13, and there's no rest for the weary; their next opponent is the defending champion Miami Heat on Tuesday. They'll play the Heat twice in the next two weeks in their final contest of a four games in five day stretch.
It's unclear how much Nene will be able to play with such a grueling slate of games coming up, but Anthony, Nene's former teammate, has some empathy for Nene's struggles with injuries, and playing on a losing team.
"It's good to see him back, good to see him healthy again," Anthony said. " I know he's been dabbling with some injuries but to have him back, when he's healthy, he's an animal out there."
Anthony and Nene played together for eight seasons in Denver, and while Anthony orchestrated a trade to the team he wanted to play for, Nene had no such control over his fate.
"I mean, at this time of the year, it's still early in the season," Anthony said of the Wizards. "I don't think it's no time for them to close the lid right now. Nene is a guy that's not going to play until he's completely healthy and when he's healthy, you know what type of guy he is. And they missing John [Wall] too."
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