By: Jeremy Hyman
The Wizards look to get back on track as they host the New York Knicks tonight at Verizon Center (7:00 pm | TV: CSN | Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM). The Wizards are 1-1 this season against the Knicks, with each team winning on their home floor.
If the trend continues for the Wizards, they should be in good shape to take down the division leading Knicks tonight at home. That trend would be beating playoff teams at home, something the Wizards have gotten used to of late. The Wizards have won eight consecutive home games against teams currently in the playoffs. Their last loss to a playoff team at home came on January 4th when the Wizards lost in double overtime to the Brooklyn Nets. Since then, they have wins against the Thunder, Hawks, Bulls, Clippers, Knicks, Nets, Nuggets, and Rockets.
The Knicks enter tonight's game with a record of 34-20 and are winners of two in a row. Prior to those wins, they had lost four straight including two losses to the Toronto Raptors, a team the Wizards beat on the road earlier this week.
The Knicks present a slew of talent and can throw a lot of different lineups on the floor to cause matchup problems. They like to play a three guard lineup, with Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, and Iman Shumpert alongside Carmelo Anthony at the PF spot and Tyson Chandler at C. The Wizards will likely counter with their smaller lineup, where Trevor Ariza or Chris Singleton get a lot of time at the PF spot.
Trevor Ariza is coming off a 22 point effort in the Wizards loss to Detroit on Wednesday and he will likely play a big role in tonight's game. While nobody can stop Anthony, Ariza may be the Wizards best on-ball defender and should be matched up with Anthony for much of the night. If Nene can't go again, there is a chance Ariza may get the start at the PF spot to counter the Knicks lineups.
The last time these two teams met, the Wizards took down the Knicks, 106-96, at Verizon Center. John Wall led the team with 21 points & nine assists while Ariza put in a then season-high 20 off the bench. The Wizards played one of their best games of the season in that game, especially in the fourth quarter where the outscored the Knicks 36-23 to seal the win.
The Wizards are coming off a tough 96-95 home loss to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night. While they average allowing opponents to shoot 44% this season, the Pistons shot 54% in that game and it was not the usual defensive effort fans have grown accustomed to seeing from the Wizards. They will need to get back to their principles and put up a big defensive effort tonight as the Knicks have an array of talent on offense.
Bradley Beal had 16 points on Wednesday night and now has scored at least 16 in the Wizards last five games. In eight games during the month of February, Beal averaged 17.5 points and 5.1 rebounds on .481 shooting from the field. This all mark highs for Beal for any month this season. Beal also had four games of 20+ points during the month of February. Look for Beal to continue his hot shooting in tonight's game vs. the Knicks.
The action kicks off at 7pm.
Emeka Okafor is averaging 14.8 points and 10.0 rebounds in his last six games and has been a rock in the middle for the Wizards. He has been consistent and reliable each and every night over the last two months on both ends of the court. He will need to bring his A game tonight, especially on the glass as he will take on All-Star Tyson Chandler.
Tyson Chandler is having another fine year manning the middle for the Knicks. He is coming off a career-high 28 rebounds on Wednesday night vs. Golden State, where he recorded 13 boards in the first quarter alone. He is tied for fourth in the league in rebounding with 11.4 per game this season and he will be the focal point of the inside play for the Knicks tonight.
In the below clip, John Wall finds Okafor for the dunk.