NEW YORK — In three straight games against quality opponents, the Washington Wizards erased fourth-quarter leads and stormed back to earn victories.
Last night against the lottery-bound New York Knicks, that formula did not work as the Wizards fell 105-93 at Madison Square Garden.
The Wizards fell behind by 22 points in the first half and trailed by five points going into the fourth quarter.
In an unlikely turn of events, the Knicks, who won for just the third time in their last 12 tries, became the first Wizards opponent in the last seven games to score more than 100 points.
The last thing Wizards coach Eddie Jordan wanted to talk about was the team having played four games — getting victories in three of them — in five nights.
“That’s no excuse for us. I was very disappointed. I told our guys after the game that this is no excuse,” Jordan said. “We have to find a way to summon up a lot of concentration and a lot of energy, and we need to get something from our bench.”
Despite falling behind early, the Wizards — who didn’t have Antonio Daniels in the starting lineup because of a sore knee — fought back into the game and remained within striking distance for most of the second half.
But whenever they tried to make a push, the Knicks had an answer.
“We said before the game that this can be a very dangerous team,” Jordan said of the Knicks, who improved to 11-26 behind a game-high 29 points from Jamal Crawford. “They have some people who can break you down, and that’s what they did. They are a very dangerous team when they get things going.”
Caron Butler led the Wizards (20-17) with 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Antawn Jamison added 21 points, and Roger Mason finished with 18 points.
New York placed six players in double figures. They shot the ball better than the Wizards (51.2 percent to 39.5), and they had twice as many assists (26).
Before the game, Jordan told his players he would go to the bench early because he wanted to give his starters some extra rest.
But Jordan was not pleased with the reserves’ effort. Nick Young, Darius Songaila, Andray Blatche and Dominic McGuire were a combined 3-for-14 from the field.
“We don’t come off with energy, with concentration, so there is no excuse,” Jordan said of the reserves. “We have five or six guys who didn’t play a lot of minutes the last three or four games. If we are going to be an 11- or 12-man team, then we’ve got to get the last six guys to get up and play.”
With 6:12 left in the half, New York’s Nate Robinson connected on a 3-pointer that gave New York a 41-19 lead.
But the Wizards got right back in the game, getting a spark from forward Oleksiy Pecherov.
The rookie, who made his debut in the Wizards’ victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, drained three 3-pointers in the second quarter.
Wizards coach Eddie Jordan even saw enough from Pecherov that he used the 7-footer in the fourth quarter.
With Pecherov lighting the fire, the Wizards closed out the first half on a 19-10 run that pulled them within 51-41.
Last night at Madison Square Garden, New York
SEEN AND HEARD
The Wizards sat starting point guard Antonio Daniels because of an achy right knee.
It’s the same knee that forced Daniels to miss seven games after he suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in the second quarter against Miami on Dec. 13.
Daniels will be listed as day-to-day and have his knee further evaluated today or tomorrow. The Wizards did not rule him out of Friday’s rematch with the Knicks.
Daniels is averaging 8.9 points and a career-high 5.3 assists. He’s also shooting a career-high 48.1 percent from the field.
— John N. Mitchell