- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Five Washington Wizards players focused on the two flat screens in the locker room following Tuesday night’s 117-101 win against the ineffective and depleted New York Knicks.

The Toronto Raptors were walking onto the floor for an offensive possession with 29 seconds to play in overtime against the New Orleans Pelicans. That this game featuring Toronto, which has been the second- or third-best team in the Eastern Conference all season after going to the conference finals last season, was relevant in the Washington locker room, would not have been projected early in the season. But, on Tuesday, the outcome would influence just how close the Wizards would be to catching Toronto for the third spot in the conference.

Kyle Lowry hit a deep, difficult jump shot. The Raptors survived New Orleans’ next possession, the Wizards‘ players groaned. They knew that if Toronto lost, they would be a mere half-game out of the third spot in the conference. As it stands after their 15th consecutive home win, Washington has moved into a tie for fourth in the conference and first in the Southeast Division. They are two games out of the second spot and 1.5 games behind third-place Toronto.

That’s what a 10-win month followed by an 12-win month will do.

“We can get a lot better,” Markieff Morris said.

Three points from yet another home win, an action which has become strikingly commonplace:

The streak. Parameters of the streak look like this now: 15 consecutive wins in the Verizon Center ties the organization’s second-longest winning streak . It last happened in 1989, the one we have been referencing as they kept marching through. They haven’t lost at home in two months. In fact, neither the Capitals or the Wizards lost in Verizon Center in January. A win Thursday would put this streak into second place in franchise history, still trailing the 22-game streak of Nov. 27, 1974-March 5, 1975. John Wall didn’t know the standing of the home streak in franchise history until a reporter told him. Washington has two more home games coming up this week, Thursday against the 16-34 Los Angeles Lakers, then Saturday versus the 19-30 New Orleans Pelicans. Win both, and the win streak will hit 17 consecutive when the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers come to Verizon Center on Feb. 6.

Paying attention to Porter.Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after the game that teams — finally — are starting to scout the league’s top 3-point shooter differently. Porter’s 0-for-3 on Tuesday was part of a rocky night from behind the 3-point for the Wizards as a team (31.8 percent), not that it mattered against the Knicks. But, leading the league in 3-point percentage has prompted teams to chase him off the 3-point line and created even more space for Wall and Markieff Morris.

“Every team has a decision to make,” Brooks said. “We have guys that can shoot. Now ‘Kieff is doing a good job of stepping out and making 3s, so the court is spread. Brad [Beal] and John obviously are good players and [Marcin Gortat] does a good job of rolling. Teams are going to have to make a decision on who to stop and who to give looks to. We just want to play the right way and good to great passing and I thought we have been doing it the last couple of months. It’s something that we’ve talked about since the beginning of October, but I think our guys are really buying in and doing it every night. They deserve the credit: just continue to move the ball, find the shot no matter who takes it.”

Handling Carmelo remains a chore.Knicks star Carmelo Anthony waded through another day of drama with the Knicks. He talked about trade rumors in the morning, then tried to get his team rolling in the first quarter Tuesday night when he scored 13 points on just seven shots. He bullied Porter in the post and anchored himself in his preferred spots. He played little to no defense and took just 10 shots the rest of the game. The reduction in field goal attempts had little to do with the Wizards‘ defense. They never trapped him. Porter faced him alone, as did 21-year-old Kelly Oubre. Oubre was eight years old when Anthony made his first NBA basket.

“That guy’s a legend,” Oubre said. “He does a great job of doing what he does. He gets to his spots, his jumper, it’s super quick. I have a lot of respect for him. I love guarding him because he’s the ultimate competitor. He can score the ball, pretty much flat out. He’s one of the best ever to do it. All respect to him. He’s a great guy.”

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