The Knicks close out the calendar year with a rematch against the Wizards, who beat them on their home turf five days ago, and now play host.
The New York Knicks (8-24) head to the nation’s capital to take on the Washington Wizards (9-21) in a rematch between the two teams who played just before the Christmas break. In the first matchup, the Wizards had half their roster out due to injury and still defeated the Knicks in what is possibly the most embarrassing loss of the season for New York.
The Knicks losing to a banged-up Wizards squad was a new low point for this team. Julius Randle said via SNY after the game, “It should’ve never gotten to that point, to be honest with you. We should’ve never been in that position. Just from top to bottom, how we approached this game was terrible. It can’t happen. This can’t happen.”
The performance was depressing, as Wizards “superstars” like Anžejs Pasečņiks and Troy Brown scored from wherever they wanted, and the Knicks couldn’t defend the most basic pick-and-rolls and drives to the rim. The lumbering defensive performances of Bobby Portis and Julius Randle have become painful to watch. The amount of good faith the Knicks imbue in Portis by playing him nearly 22 minutes a night continues to show a lack of performance-based accountability.
This rematch provides both an opportunity for the Knicks to demonstrate any level of competency, but also a chance to fall flat on their faces again. New York is one of the worst teams in the league and shouldn’t look at any upcoming game as a scheduled win. Randle criticized the team’s demeanor heading into the first Wizards game, and hopefully the veterans can set the tone moving forward that every game deserves a consistent level of preparation.
The Knicks will get back Marcus Morris Sr., who missed the first Wizards game with a sore left Achilles. With Morris out of the lineup the Knicks struggled mightily, as he is having his best three-point shooting season of his career, hitting 46.1% of his 5.7 attempts per game. He has been vital to the modicum of success the Knicks have had this year, boosting the team’s performance not getting lost on defensive rotations and being able to hit tough jumpers. Morris should thrive against a Wizards squad who don’t have many quality defenders his size.
New York has just a few injuries for Saturday’s game. Dennis Smith Jr. is out with a strained left oblique, and Reggie Bullock continues to be out with a herniated disc. Wayne Ellington (sore left Achilles) and Mitchell Robinson (sprained big left toe) will both be available, per the New York Post‘s Marc Berman.
D.C.’s All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal is questionable heading into tonight’s contest.
UPDATE: 6:21 p.m. ET.
Beal is officially out tonight for Washington, per Newsday‘s Steve Popper.