NEW YORK | Quickly back up on his feet, John Wall shoved back. The former No. 1 pick in the midst of his best season was dumped to the floor by a double-elbow shot from New York Knicks bit player Quincy Acy.
Wall had dominated the discombobulated Knicks throughout Christmas afternoon. He worked the post against the Knicks’ smaller and defensively helpless points guards. He ran past them, dribbled around them and crossed them over. Wall even threw in a 360-degree layup during the Wizards’ rare national television appearance.
Acy’s blast of Wall, who was dribbling up the floor before Acy charged and contacted him at the right elbow, was the only way the Knicks could conjure to stop the point guard. Acy loaded up his fists after Wall’s responsive shove. Kris Humphries and Nene stepped in and separation was achieved with 5:31 to play.
Wall walked away. On his way to 24 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in the Wizards 102-91 win in the Garden, he knew a technical was coming. Other actions by him would only create a larger problem. Acy fumed, incapable, much like the Knicks, to do anything further. After a video review, Acy was ejected.
“I was just running down the court,” Wall said. “Usually, I just get like a regular foul, but I could tell like, how he charged. When I fell out there, I kind of was frustrated. I didn’t try to retaliate the wrong way.”
Thursday was a recalibration for the Wizards after consecutive home losses. Washington had 25 assists on 44 field goals. It turned the ball over just 10 times. That style provided the Wizards enough early wins to be on top of the division throughout December. They had moved away from it the prior two games, losses in the Verizon Center to the Phoenix Suns and Chicago Bulls.
“This is more who we got to be and who we’ve been for the most part,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “We’ve got big bodies, we’ve got to be the most physical team.”
Christmas in New York was also the first time Washington’s preseason projected starting five opened a game together. Power forward Nene rejoined the five for tip-off after coming off the bench for nine games. Plantar fasciitis caused Nene to miss five games before his move to the bench. When he returned, his minutes were restricted, so, the Wizards replaced him with Kris Humphries.
“I thought it was time to get our units back together,” Wittman said.
The Wizards never trailed. Once out to a 9-2 lead which caused a New York timeout just 2:16 into the game, they were never threatened. They led by at least 10 points the entire second half.
The Knicks, on the other hand, continue to be a mess. Anthony scored 34 points on 28 shots. Amar’e Stoudemire, once called a “beast from the deep” by Boris Diaw when they were teammates in Phoenix, only plays in the shallow end now. He scored six points.
New York started Samuel Dalembert at center. He was so ineffective, he played just 12:04. He was not in foul trouble. Just poor.
Following a timeout to put together an offensive play, Anthony air-balled a challenged jump shot just before the shot clock expired.
The 5-26 Knicks have lost the most games in the NBA. Fans booed throughout the afternoon. Only Acy’s body block and celebrity faces on the video screen brought them joy.
“I don’t think it’s anything specific that I can point out,” Anthony said of the team’s lack of ability.
Nene’s return to the starting lineup put Humphries back with the second unit. The Wizards like the spacing that Humphries provides with that group. His results indicated he was fine with the move. Humphries was 7-for-9 from the field.
“It was cool,” Humphries said. “I’m used to playing with those guys off the bench.”
The Wizards play the Knicks once more this season when New York visits Verizon Center Jan. 7. Though, Wall will likely be coming back to New York in in a couple months. He’s received the most votes among Eastern Conference backcourt players for the All-Star game, which will be held in Madison Square Garden on Feb. 15.
The Wizards will lean on him until then and beyond. Wittman touts pace, which Wall is responsible for. He demands pressure defense, which he says starts with Wall. Paul Pierce repeats that the Wizards go as Wall goes. His influence over the Wizards is vast and expanding.
“We’ve talked about his growth and we’re continuing to see it,” Wittman said. “He did a little bit of everything (Thursday).”
Wall stayed on-point when pressed about the Acy incident. He didn’t see it coming and didn’t know why it occurred, he said. Through with questions about that, he was able to move on to explaining is 360-degree layup with a smile.
“It’s something I practice all the time,” Wall said. “I was happy to pull it off. In the Garden, can’t get no better.”
He may change his mind in February.