The Knicks saw their first-half comeback, led by Frank Ntilikina, evaporate in the second half against the Bradley Beal and the Wizards.

The New York Knicks (20-45)  fell to the Washington Wizards (24-40) on the road on Tuesday night in D.C., losing 122-115 in a sparse Capital One Arena as the coronavirus’ spread continues to change course to the NBA’s season. While no official announcement has been broadcast, the league could see fans barred from attending games in the foreseeable future as members of the media have already been limited in proximity to players and coaches.

New York’s bench was an emphatic factor in the comeback and eventual loss, with veteran big man Bobby Portis leading the Knicks in scoring on Tuesday, along with Ntilikina, pouring in 20 points in 26 minutes against his former team. Portis, 25, spent 28 games with the Wizards last season after being traded by the Chicago Bulls. The Arkansas product appears to have a penchant for big scoring nights against his (only two) ex-franchises, given past performances including a 28-point game against the Bulls in October and 17 points against the Wizards in December—both coming off the bench.

Tuesday also saw an aggressive outing from third-year French guard Frank Ntilikina, who started the game with three made buckets. After an early, double-digit deficit for the Knicks, interim head coach Mike Miller subbed in his entire bench, whose first-quarter run kept New York in the game, eventually taking the lead in the first frame before D.C. went up five to finish the period. Ntilikina and Portis combined to score 28 first-half points as the Knicks scored 64 points in 20 minutes following their anemic four-points-in-four-minutes start to the game.

Ntilikina finished with a career-high(!) 20 points along with chipping in 10 assists, to complete the double-double, and a pair of steals in 29 minutes of action.

The Wizards were carried by their game-long hot shooting, however. While perimeter shooting to start the game did not feel as vibrant for the entire 48-minute stretch for Washington, the three-ball was essential to their victory against the Knicks Tuesday, draining 14-of-35 (40.0%). Latvian forward and Sixth Man of the Year candidate Davis Bertans poured in a trio triples of his own and journeyman guard Shabazz Napier adding another three.

All-Star (but not for this year) shooting guard Bradley Beal took over the third quarter for the Wizards, with 20 points alone in the period. Beal as been one of the most dangerous scorers this season for D.C., scoring 40 points or more 10 times entering tonight. The St. Louis native nearly took down the Knicks all by himself, tying the teams after Washington fell at the half by double digits. Beal and the Wizards took advantage of 10 third-quarter turnovers from the ‘Bockers, and more mishaps by New York in the fourth quarter capitulated to the sustained scoring from Beal to lead Washington to the W.

Beal notched his 11th 40-point game of the season on Tuesday against the Knicks, shooting 11-of-25 of the field, 4-for-10 from deep, and 14-16 from the free throw line.

Tuesday’s loss also saw a better game from Japanese rookie forward Rui Hachimura, a Gonzaga product taken ninth overall in last year’s draft. The 22-year-old lottery pick bounced back from a scoreless outing against the Miami Heat on Sunday (in 39 minutes) with 12 points, seven rebounds, and two assists, along with several energetic dunks that showcased Hachimura’s athleticism.

Clutch defense from Rochester, New York, native center Thomas Bryant and the surprise play of Napier helped Beal and the Wizards to a rare win, strangely improving the team’s home record to 16-16 on the season, though, for a 40-plus-loss team.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • While the health and wellbeing of everybody is firmly on people’s mind, third-year point guard Dennis Smith Jr. was activate for Tuesday’s tilt—the first time in five games after he was sidelined with concussion symptoms. Smith Jr. did not play, however, despite Miller’s early yanking of the starters in favor of the more effective and responsive bench unit.
  • Third-year swingman Damyean Dotson received a DNP-CD as well, missing his seventh bout in the last seven games for New York and 10 in 13.
  • Bradley Beal should have been an All-Star this year. I’m not even going to posture who took his spot in the East, but tonight was another night the two-time All-Star was mistaken in 2020. I’m talking a Julia Roberts Pretty Woman–sized mistake.
  • Knicks rookie R.J. Barrett had an O.K. night, scoring 16 points but on 15 shots and turning over the ball five times (with four steals of his own). He had an injury scare when he was poked in the eye late in the fourth quarter but resumed activity after a pause on the court.
  • More on the turnover note earlier: the Knicks fumbled the rock 18 times, something they “outdid” five other times this season, with four other instances recording the same number of turnovers.
  • And more praise for Frank Ntilikina: his first 20-10 game, but it occurred in a loss. Ntilikina and bench kept the game close in the first quarter after the starting unit was pulled, though, and the former eighth-overall selection in the 2017 draft was a team-best +17 on the night along with veteran wing Reggie Bullock.

The Knicks play the Atlanta Hawks in the Peach State tomorrow night.



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