WASHINGTON — With much of the world avoiding large crowds due to the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak, the Wizards hosted the New York Knicks in front of a…less than capacity “crowd” Tuesday night at Capital One Arena. The reported attendance was over 15,000 but that doesn’t seem close to true with as many empty seats as there were in the upper levels. The current health crisis seemed to scare off Wizards fans more than Knicks fans as the arena was taken over by a New York presence exacerbated by the pandemic fears.
The Wizards got out to a commanding 18-4 lead in the first 4-minutes and 3-seconds go game time. Of those 18 points, Thomas Bryant’s nine accounted for half of them. Over the next 4+ minutes, New York proceeded to go on a 20-7 run of their own and the Wizards found themselves up only one with under four minutes left in the quarter. With 3:05 left Bobby Portis tied New York with Washington at 26-26. On their next possession, with 2:48 left in the awarder, the Knicks took their first lead 28-26 on another Portis basket. The bucket gave Portis 12 early points but Beal quickly tied the game again at 28-28 with a bucket of his own. Garrison Mathews came off the bench for five quick points to help the Wizards maintain their slim lead and after one quarter, the Wizards held a 36-31 lead and had survived the first Knicks push.
New York wasn’t done in the first however, opening the 2nd quarter with an 11-2 run giving them a 42-38 lead with 9:23 to play in the half. Frank Ntilikina, often the draw of Knicks fan ire, even had 10 points at this point in the game. The Knicks kept piling on from there, journeyman Taj Gibson had 10 points himself when New York led 49-41 midway through the quarter.
Something happened after the first timeout of the game when the Wizards looked like they were going to beat the brakes off the Knicks. The life went out of the Washington squad and New York just seemed to want every loose ball, rebound and basket more. At the break, the Knicks had finished the opening half on a 66-36 run and Washington had managed to turn a 14-point lead into a 16-point deficit.
At halftime the Wizards talked about needing to “play tougher” and “be locked in” according to head coach Scott Brooks. Beal got the message and he said “coming out in the third…just trying to win and be aggressive as much as possible.” The guard added “some shots were falling and, you know, all I need to see is one go down and the rest is done.”
Bradley Beal came out of the locker room after halftime with 13 points. By the time the 3rd quarter was over he would have 33 points and his team would be tied heading into the final quarter of regulation.
With 4:29 remaining in the 3rd, Bradley Beal was willing the Wizards back into the game. His 20-3rd quarter points accounted for more than half of Washington’s 33 total team points in the quarter. Shabazz Napier chipped in 7 points in the quarter himself and kiss off the glass got him to 16 points for the game and Washington within 3, 83-80 with 3 minutes left in the 3rd.
Davis Bertans gave the Wizards back the lead 90-89 with a 3 pointer and made it 92-89 sinking 2 of 3 free throws on the next possession. Napier’s wide open three pointer from the wing gave the Wizards 100 points and a 100-94 lead. Washington grew their lead to 107-97 when Troy Brown, Jr. sank a 3 with 5:51 left in regulation. Beal found Bryant on a sweet pick and roll for a strongman’s and-1. It was 110-97 with just over 5 minutes remaining in regulation.
With 4:03 to go, Julius Randle picked up his 6th and final foul and his night was done. He finished with 16 points and 5 rebounds across 26 minutes. Davis Bertans appeared to join him with his 6th foul with 1:13 left. The Wizards challenged Bertans’ 6th foul and it was overturned.
Bradley Beal got wide open on an inbounds pass from Bertans and his booming finish gave him 40 points, to go along with seven assists, capping his big night . When asked after the game what it would mean to make the ALL-NBA Team after being snubbed from the All Star Game in the same season, the superstar said simply “that would be weird.” He asked who voted on the ALL-NBA team and when he was told the media did he said “that definitely would be weird.” He went on to adfd that he would like to earn the award and how it would be a “great achievement” but reiterated “I wanna make the playoffs.”
Washington won this rollercoaster game by a final score of 120-110 to keep their playoff hopes alive. The win improves Washington to 24-40 with only 18 games remaining and they remain in sole possession of 9th place. The Wizards kept pace with Orlando, who came from behind to defeat Memphis Tuesday night, and are only 5.5 games behind the Magic. Washington next plays Friday night in Boston as the travel to play the Celtics.
At least, for the time being, Coach Brooks, Bradley Beal and Shabazz Napier spoke at a podium in the Capital One Arena Press Conference room like it was a postseason game. This was due to a league wide ban of media from locker rooms in response to the coronavirus outbreak and is said to be a temporary measure. It will be interesting to see how “temporary” it is this season with the aforementioned playoffs right around the corner.