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Wizards start four-game trip in New York
Two nights after hosting Brooklyn in D.C., the Wizards (9-14) are in New York to take on the Knicks (8-16) and start a four-game road trip. Both Washington and New York are coming into the game off of wins, with the Knicks getting a win over Milwaukee on Saturday and the Wizards beating the Nets.
Monday night’s matchup will be the second of four meetings between the two teams this season. The Wizards beat the Knicks 108-95 in early November in Washington, and the next time they meet will be in London on January 17.
Madison Square Garden | 7:30 P.M. | NBC Sports Washington | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – John Wall, G – Bradley Beal, G/F – Tomas Satoransky, F – Otto Porter Jr., C – Thomas Bryant
Knicks: G – Emmanuel Mudiay, G – Tim Hardaway Jr., G – Mario Hezonja, F – Noah Vonleh, C – Enes Kanter
Wizards: Dwight Howard (L4-L5 lumbar microdiscectomy procedure – out), Jeff Green (lower back spasms – probable), Otto Porter Jr. (left big toe contusion – questionable)
Knicks: Trey Burke (right knee sprain – out), Kristaps Porzingis (left knee – out), Lance Thomas (left knee surgery – out)
The rubber meets the road
With Saturday’s victory over Brooklyn, the Wizards have now won four straight on their home floor. Head coach Scott Brooks noted after the win that it’s time for some of their success at home to translate on the road, and the next four coming up will give them plenty of chances to do just that. Washington’s only 2-9 on the road this season and has struggled across the board on both ends of the floor. That includes higher turnovers, less rebounds and a lower shooting percentage. Perhaps the biggest area to improve on the road is on defense, where the Wizards allow a league-worst 122.4 points per game. They’ve put together good defensive efforts at home and are coming off a season-best 88 points allowed, so perhaps Monday night will be the beginning of turning the corner.
The Wizards have won eight straight over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden dating back to April of 2013. They’ve won 16 of their last 18 overall against New York. Last season, Washington overcame a 27-point deficit thanks largely to Bradley Beal’s 36 points to keep that streak alive. But the concern of getting down early looms large this season, as the Wizards have dug early holes that they’ve struggled to climb out of.
Both Washington and New York have struggled mightily in the first halves of games, with the Wizards posting a -12.0 net rating on the season (third worst in NBA) and the Knicks averaging a -6.0 net rating. Furthermore, Washington’s -14.5 net rating in first quarters is the worst mark in the league, while the Knicks at -11.9 aren’t far behind (third worst). How the Wizards are able to start the game will be critical to their success Monday, even though they’ve had New York’s number in recent years.
Know your opponent
The Knicks are coming off of their best win of the season over the second-place Bucks in which they edged Milwaukee in overtime. Everything clicked for New York on the night, as the Knicks shot a blistering 20-for-34 from 3-point range (58.8%) and got 20-plus-point efforts from Emmanuel Mudiay, Tim Hardaway Jr., Damyean Dotson and rookie Kevin Knox.
On the season, the Knicks have gotten a little bit from a lot of players as they continue without their star in Kristaps Porzingis. Hardaway Jr. leads the way with 22.2 points per game, but seven others that will take the floor Monday average 7.9 points or better on a nightly basis. New York is composed of a ton of lottery-drafted talent in Enes Kanter (15 points, 11.6 rebounds per game), Mudiay, Knox, Noah Vonleh, Frank Ntilikina, and Mario Hezonja. And while they’re almost all in New York after not clicking with the teams that drafted them (all but Ntilikina and Knox), games like the win over Milwaukee are reminders of how dangerous the Knicks can be when they get rolling.
Still, the 3-point shooting that New York displayed Saturday is more of an outlier than a sign of things to come. The Knicks are shooting just 34.4% on the season from deep and haven’t defended well on the other end, posting a defensive rating of 111.7 (25th in the NBA). What they do well is grab offensive rebounds (12 per game, seventh-best in the NBA), something that has been an Achilles heel of the Wizards’ this season.