The Washington Wizards fell Friday at home in a 96-88 loss to Carmelo Anthony and the visiting New York Knicks. Wizards rookie Bradley Beal posted a new career-high 29 points in the contest but Anthony topped him with 30 as the Knicks finished the fourth quarter on a 9-2 run.
"It was a tight game," said Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman postgame. "We needed to get a shot attempt and we didn't. But our guys battled, I don't have a complaint about that. We stayed with what we wanted to do and did a good job of it. Against a team like this, you can't miss 10 free throws and [...] we have to take care of the ball down in crunch time. Those are the main things we have to concentrate on and do a better job."
With 4:03 left to play, Wizards reserve forward Trevor Ariza achieved his fifth assist of the night on Beal's fourth and final make from three-point territory (29 points, 4-for-7 from three-point). The shot made it 87-86, Knicks. Washington, however, would go without a field goal in the final four minutes of play.
The Wizards stopped Knicks guard Jason Kidd from answering Beal's three with a three of his own (4 points, 0-for-4 from three-point), yet John Wall suffered a Wizards turnover as Anthony stepped in on defense. The Wizards would get another shot opportunity after Wall returned the favor on Anthony, but the turnover resulted in a missed three-pointer by Wizards forward-guard Martell Webster (9 points, 4-for-7), who may have been fouled on the shot.
Without starting center Nene (shoulder) or reserve point guard A.J. Price (thigh contusion), the undermanned Wizards ran out of options. "Without A.J. there, that's a backup guy who can come in and knock down shots for us," said Beal postgame, "and Nene who can be able to be an inside presence for us and also defend some of their guys and put them in a bind on offense and defense. It's real tough to play without them." Washington pressed on, but a gassed Wall couldn't carry the load.
Anthony lined up for a dagger three-pointer to give the Knicks a commanding, 92-87 lead with 2:23 to play. Wall countered with a terrible, four foot runner attempt which miscued, then Ariza mishandled a pass in the corner, resulting in a Wizards turnover. The turnover all but sealed the loss.
"'Melo is a great scorer, he's going to score in a variety of ways," said Beal postgame, regarding his 30-29 battle with Anthony. "I was just trying to get points out of the flow of our offense and just let the game come to me. I mean when you have guys like Kobe, LeBron, 'Melo, D-Wade, you can't get caught into trying to be in competition with them scoring wise, because you lose sight of what the team needs to do."
Team leader Wall ended up with 16 points and 6 assists in the loss. None of those 6 assists came in the fourth quarter, as Wall continues to battle through his funk following a dreadful performance Wednesday while hosting Jose Calderon and the Detroit Pistons. The young guard is struggling as of late and with him go the Wizards.
"He (Wall) has to continue to play hard and play through it," said Coach Wittman. "Play through mistakes and play through missed shots, which I thought he did that tonight. Things will turn for the better if we continue to have the attitude we play with and have everyone on the same page, we will be fine."
Beal's 29 points and 11 rebounds night was somewhat countered by J.R. Smith, who finished with 13 points and a career-high 12 rebounds off the bench for the Knicks. Either way, Beal continues to impress while Wall struggles.
Washington can lose two more games and achieve .500 ball (the Milwaukee Bucks are currently 28-28). The Wizards are 18-39 after Friday's loss and have 25 more games to play, starting with the visiting Philadelphia 76ers Sunday at 6:00 p.m. ET (CSN).