Randy Wittman wasn’t happy. After preaching the need for his Wizards to play better defense prior to Thursday’s preseason game against the Knicks, it appeared as if his players hadn’t heard him. The Knicks scored 38 points in the first quarter, while the Wizards put up 21.
In the second quarter, the Wizards collective memories kicked in. Washington went on a 22-0 run and held the Knicks scoreless until the 4:21 mark and led by three at halftime, 56-53. In the second half, the veteran-laden Knicks took control and outplayed the Wizards en route to a 108-101 win.
“I thought in the second half the starting group started played a little. We just pounded the ball too much to start the game,” Wittman said. “Pound, pound, pound, then pass instead of looking to pass, move, cut, we just pounded it way too much without the ball moving.”
It was the first preseason game for New York, and even with several players out with injuries, including Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert, the Knicks were able to pull off the win, thanks in large part to some deadly outside shooting.
Led by Steve Novak, who scored 21 points, including 7 for 7 from the 3-point line, the Knicks recovered from their lackluster second-quarter performance to shoot 47.2 percent, including a game-changing 54.5 percent (18 of 33) from 3-point range. The Wizards, by contrast, struggled to find the right chemistry from the starting unit to the bench.
“It’s a function of not passing the ball to an open man,” Wittman said. “It’s a simple game. It really is. I’m not going to fool you with anything else, trust me. That’s all it was. We didn’t run separate plays for the second unit that we did run for the first unit. We’ve got to learn.”
Wizards rookie Bradley Beal, who is expected to develop into an offensive weapon, didn’t enter the game until the final minute of the first quarter. Beal responded by scoring seven points in five minutes, and he finished with 15 points.
After sitting out all but the final 35.4 seconds of the third quarter, he finished with five assists and just one turnover. As a rookie playing his his first home game, Beal has a few things to learn.
“I think the speed of the game and the smartness and the mentality of these players, that’s what I’m noticing the most,” Beal said. “I mean these guys are very smart and they find ways to trick you. Jason Kidd stole the ball form me, that’s a vet move. I should have seen that coming.”
Wittman went with A.J. Price at point guard to start the game, and Price and Jannero Pargo split the majority of the minutes, leaving Shelvin Mack on the short end of the rotation.
“We’ve got to do a better job, that goes without saying,” Price said. “The last two games we’ve been down, put the team in a hole and the second unit has come in and brought us right back.”
Although defending the 3-point line was a challenge for the Wizards, their offensive effort was a little bit better than their 88-point effort against the Bobcats. The team shot 42.9 percent and 42.3 from 3-point range. Leading the way for Washington was Jordan Crawford (17), along with Beal (15) and Martell Webster (12 points, 10 rebounds).
“I’m here to compete to help make my teammates better,” Webster said. “I’m not thinking like, ‘Oh, I need to steal this spot.’ Because I know if I do what I’m supposed to do, it’s all going to speak for itself. It’s not about me. It’s about this team.”
Now 0-2 in the preseason, the Wizards will head to Cleveland to play the Cavaliers on Saturday, game one of a six-game road trip.
“We’ve had some struggles, but we’re getting better each game,” Crawford said. “Coaches have been preaching to us, telling us each other’s role. We’re learning.”