The New York Knicks will square off with Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards in a Sunday-night contest between two lottery-bound teams.
With the Knicks set to take on the Wizards in their penultimate home game of the season, New York (15-64) is officially out of reasons to lose games this year.
Friday’s decimation by the Rockets, coupled with the Suns’ overtime victory over the Pelicans, gave New York a 3.5-game cushion on the worst record in the league, clinching the top position in this year’s draft lottery.
The Suns WON, therefore the Knicks have officially locked up the worst record in the league.— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) April 6, 2019
They can pick no worse than 5th in the 2019 NBA Draft.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED pic.twitter.com/6TFJu0MeT9
Washington’s tank job is not yet complete, as its performance in these final couple of games could make the difference between a 37.3% chance at vaulting into the top four or just a 20.3% shot at some lottery luck. The Wizards (32-48) are currently separated by a half of a game between these realities with three other teams.
So, to recap the immediate impact of the new, more evenly distributed draft lottery odds, about 10 teams are currently tanking as the season comes to a close, as opposed to the usual number between three and five teams blatantly aiming to lose. The Knicks have an 86% chance at not landing Zion, and are essentially a coin flip’s odds from falling to fifth overall as a 15-win team. The Wizards’ chances of rising into the top four may only be 15% less likely than the New York’s despite winning nearly 20 more games this season. The tanking problem has been solved… not.
With that passive aggressive complaint about the new lottery odds out of the way, let’s focus on some prevailing themes entering tonight’s matchup.
Due to a myriad of injuries to every lead guard on the Knicks’ normal roster, New York turned to a committee of forward Mario Hezonja and G League call-up Billy Garrett to run the point against Houston. While the offense certainly suffered, the results in the box score weren’t that bad.
Hezonja put up a triple double, the arbitrary determinant of a good game, totaling 16 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists in an all-around solid effort. Garrett tallied a respectable line of eight points, two assists, and a steal and a block apiece in his second career NBA game.
With Dennis Smith Jr. and Emmanuel Mudiay nearing returns, we may not see this historic Knicks point guard platoon again. Cherish these moments; it’ll only make New York’s glory days better.
David Fizdale was optimistic Dennis Smith and Emmanuel Mudiay will play again this season, but not Allonzo Trier. Apparently Trier's calf injury flared up against yesterday.— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) April 5, 2019
Real Deal Beal
Despite the Wizards’ subpar record, Bradley Beal has carried the team since John Wall ruptured his Achilles’ tendon. Beal is in the midst of a career year, averaging 25.9 points, 5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists on respectable efficiency while not missing a game for the second season in a row. Once labeled as injury prone and inconsistent, Beal has entirely reversed that narrative as he has become a contender for an All-NBA team selection with his play.
The focal point of the Wizards’ offense, Beal will present a tough challenge for Damyean Dotson as the season comes to a close. If Dotson can account for even 10 fewer points than Beal either via scoring or assisting, the Knicks should feel as if they won that matchup.
Mitchell Robinson and Kevin Knox are looking to end their rookie campaigns on the right foot, and tonight’s contest against a Wizards team without many positive things to play for is a great opportunity to accomplish this. Robinson currently boasts a 27-game streak of recording at least two blocks, and will look to continue that run tonight.
After being terribly inefficient scoring the ball for most of this season, Knox has made more of his touches of late, shooting at least 50% from the field in four of his past 12 games. While this doesn’t seem that impressive at first glance, the 19-year-old only achieved this benchmark once over his previous 24 games, showing some ability to fight through the rookie wall as the season comes to a close. Knox’s shot selection and toughness finishing will go a long way in determining if he can achieve another effective performance scoring the ball.
Tonight’s game against Washington is scheduled to tip off at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Dennis Smith Jr. and Isaiah Hicks will play tonight, per The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov. Smith Jr.—who along with the other Knicks guards—was absent against Houston and will come off the bench. Thus, Mario Hezonja will start at point guard again, per NorthJersey’s Chris Iseman.