It was a game the Wizards had high hopes of winning, as they faced the New York Knicks Wednesday night at the Verizon Center. Yet, even without Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks pulled off an improbable 14-point victory, winning 107-93 as the Wizards defense collapsed in the face of the visitors’ deadly pick and roll offense.
“What the game boiled down to was containment,” said Wizards coach Randy Wittman. “We couldn’t contain the basketball, basically, whether it was in pick and rolls, or balls kicked out and we’re recovering and they’re blowing by us to the basket.”
The Wizards got into foul trouble trying to guard the Knicks’ front court players: JaVale McGee, Trevor Booker and Jan Vesely each picked up five fouls, contributing to a team total of 28, to the Knicks’ 16.
“I wish I could argue a lot of the calls, but a lot of the calls were fouls,” said Wittman.
“As I told them after the game, you’ve got to know when you’re in the bonus and not in the bonus. We played that third quarter once they got into the bonus like we had no clue we were in the bonus. It was a parade to the free throw line.”
Wittman’s comments summed up the Wizards problems all season long: there are far too many instances where the Wizards seem to have no clue about much of what happens on the court.
The Wizards also had trouble containing point guard Jeremy Lin, an undrafted second year player from Harvard, who has become an overnight sensation throughout much of the league after becoming known for a summer league game in which he played well against John Wall.
Lin scored 23 points and had 10 assists, while Wall turned in one of his best performances of the season, with 29 points and six assists. But, Wall got very little help from his teammates and his backcourt mates, Jordan Crawford and Nick Young, managed only 14 points between them. Shelvin Mack didn’t score.
“He just did a great job running pick-and-roll,” Wall said of Lin.
“They had three shooters around him, and they ran pick-and-roll — him and Tyson Chandler. They had help off the shooter. [Lin] found them, and they got a layup or they found Chandler at the rim. They were pretty tough to stop.”
Even Wittman’s son Ryan, who played against Lin in college when Ryan attended Cornell, couldn’t resist teasing his father about the Wizards problems defending Lin.
“He [Ryan] told me that they did a much better job guarding him [Lin] than we did tonight,” said Wittman. “I already had that text message before the game was over. Makes dad feel good.”
Mo Evans saw a bright side in the night’s loss.
“If we can take a page out of their book, we can use John in the same way,” said Evans, referring to the way the Knicks use Lin.
“John is probably the fastest point guard in this league with the ball. He has the ability to attack the rim the same as Jeremy Lin, and people go under pick and rolls the same as they do with Lin.
“So, if we can space the floor, and we have shooters just like they do, there are some lessons to be had in a game like this.”
But while the lessons continue, the frustration of losing continues for the Wizards.
Perhaps the final indignity came in the final minute of the game, when half the Verizon Center crowd stood and applauded the visitors, and shouted “Lets Go Knicks!” as the Wizards lowered their heads and headed toward the tunnel.