An hour before his team faced New York on Friday night, coach Eddie Jordan discussed the task that awaited his Washington Wizards, deeming the Knicks‘ run-and-gun offense difficult to stop.
Another appropriate adjective would have been frustrating. The Wizards outrebounded the Knicks and outscored them in the paint and on second-chance opportunities - all by double-digit margins. But trailing in two other categories - 3-pointers and assists - sunk the Wizards in a 114-108 loss at Verizon Center that dropped them to 0-4.
The Knicks (3-2) scorched the Wizards early and often, knocking down 13 of 32 3-pointers and shooting 51.1 percent from the field. They also had 36 assists compared with Washington’s 27.
“We did a good job all game long of moving the ball,” said Jamal Crawford, who led New York with 23 points and had four 3-pointers. “We really don’t care about who is scoring, but when you play that type of style, there will be opportunities for everyone.”
And there were.
Zach Randolph added 22, Wilson Chandler and Nate Robinson notched 17 apiece and David Lee had 13. Quentin Richardson, Chris Duhon and Anthony Roberson each had two 3-pointers.
“We had some plays to the basket, some drives - put the ball in guys’ hands thinking they could get it done - but we came up short,” said Jordan, whose team shot 51.7 percent. “What are you going to do when guys are knocking down shots 28, 30 feet from the basket?”
Washington’s starting backcourt struggled again; the Wizards needed strong efforts off the bench just to keep it competitive.
Caron Butler led Washington with 30 points and Antawn Jamison added 24, but guards DeShawn Stevenson and Antonio Daniels combined for just eight on 4-for-9 shooting.
Seeking energy to match the fast-paced Knicks, Jordan - as he did in the first three games - turned to backup guards Nick Young and Juan Dixon. Young scored 16 points and, in the second quarter, authored one of the Wizards’ brightest highlights. Getting a pass from Dixon, Young blew past Robinson, knifed through the lane, went up with the ball tucked like a running back, extended it upward, double-clutched and then dunked over Randolph.
In previous games, Dixon boosted the Wizards with scoring but Friday was the playmaker, recording a career-high 11 assists.
“You think of Juan as a guy that’s going to get points on the board for you,” Jordan said. “But he has done a great job keeping us organized. He is always a threat and can score from many different ways. … But now it’s good to see that he can be a playmaker.”
He also grabbed a career-high eight rebounds to go with five points. And rookie center JaVale McGee, after missing two alley-oops because he jumped too high, recovered for a career night of 12 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
But despite the trio’s heroics, the Wizards were left wanting again.
They came back from a 29-19 first-quarter deficit to trail 29-28 heading into the second. They fell behind again before mustering a run that cut the score to 59-58 with 1:05 left in the half, but New York scored five unanswered, including a 3-pointer from Crawford, to go up 64-58 at halftime. The Wizards were at their best in the third quarter when, led by eight points from Butler, they outscored the Knicks 30-25 and pulled within one again at 89-88.
With 4:57 left, Washington had the lead when Butler scored on a layup to put his team up 103-102 and cap an 11-3 run. But the Knicks answered with a 3-pointer from Chris Duhon, who had 12 assists. The bucket put New York up 105-103 and ignited a 12-5 run to close the game.
“Everybody was making shots out there for their team,” Young said. “Not to make excuses, but they played well. It’s frustrating, but we’ve been in this situation before [after starting 0-5 last season].
“But we’ve been coming out a little flat. We just need to bring energy from the tip.”