Kemba Walker’s 44 Points Not Enough. Washington 124 NY 117

Kemba Walker scored 44 points to electrify Madison Square Garden and carry the Knicks down to the wire in this game, but Aaron Holiday hit a huge 3 and then Kyle Kuzma hit 2 big 3’s in the last 2 minutes to carry Washington to the win. The Knicks had pulled to within 2 points with 2:26 left when Holiday hit his big 3 off a broken play with the shot clock running out, and NY had pulled to within 2 again with 2:03 left when Kuzma hit the first of his big 3’s.

And so it was that the Knicks lost another game at Madison Square Garden, this time to the Wizards, who have been good this year but were 16-15 coming in. The Knicks fall to 14-18 in this most disappointing of seasons so far.

The Knicks allowed the Wizards to hit 16 three’s (16-37 from 3; NY was 13-42 from 3). Coach Tom Thibodeau said the Knick defense was “Very poor. We didn’t have control. We didn’t have stance and vision on the weak side. It’s going to be hard to win like that.”

1. Walker ELECTRIFIED Madison Square Garden

Kemba Walker electrified Madison Square Garden. He lit the place up with 3’s and penetrations in the 2nd quarter especially — hitting 3 straight 3’s near the end of the 1st half, and then — with MSG chanting his name “Kemba, Kemba, Kemba” — took the ball off an inbounds with 6 seconds left in the half, drove left, and hit a circus shot while falling down to give NY a 7-pt lead.

It was a vintage performance. Afterwards, Kemba said “It felt great. I really wish we could have won. It’s always tough when you play well but you don’t come out on top. It was definitely a very special night.”

When asked about the Knicks lack of defensive effort, Kemba said “I don’t think it was a lack of effort at all. It was miscommunication. I thought sometimes they made some tough shots. They made good reads off the pick and roll.”

2. Knicks Still Shorthanded Due to COVID

Due to COVID protocol, NY was still without half their team. Nerlens Noel was a newcomer to the list, joining RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Miles McBride, and Kevin Knox. That curtailed the Knicks strongpoint — which is their bench.

Derrick Rose is out 2 months after ankle surgery.

Quentin Grimes was available but did not play coach’s decision (DNP). “He was cleared late in the day, so he didn’t have a chance to go thru any type of practice, so we wanted to wait another day to get him in the gym,” said Coach Tom Thibodeau about Grimes afterwards.

Instead emergency-signing Damyean Dotson continued to get minutes off the bench — 16 in this game — defending Spencer Dinwiddie. “I though Dot gave us some good minutes,” said Thibodeau. “He’s a little more familiar, having been here, amongst the guys, so that’s the way we went.”

Washington was missing Bradley Beal and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but had most of their key players available: Dinwiddie (21 points), Kuzma (18 pts), Montrezl Harrell (15 points off the bench on 6-7 shooting), Aaron Holiday (16 pts), and their revelation at center this year, Daniel Gafford (11 pts).

Corey Kispert — a 6’7 rookie sharpshooter out of Gonzaga who has not been shooting well this season — got his first start of the year at small forward and had his best game ever — 6-7 shooting including 4-5 from 3 (and 4-4 in free throws) for 20 pts.

3. Randle and Fournier Shot Poorly from 3

Julius Randle had 23 points on 10-22 shooting but continued to have trouble from 3 — shooting 0-5 from there. He had 9 rebounds, but only 2 assists with 4 turnovers. He heard boos at times from the MSG audience. Kispert going 4-5 from 3 while Julius Randle went 0-5 from 3 was the difference in this game.

Evan Fournier shot 2-13 overall, and 2-11 from 3 for 8 points in 38 minutes. That did not help.

Alec Burks was the other Knick assassin besides Walker — Burks was 6-16 overall but 4-9 from 3 for 20 points.

4. Robinson Starts At Center; Fouls Out

With Nerlens Noel joining the ranks of the COVID protocol missing — Mitchell Robinson started at center.

Robinson was coming off a BEAST 17-pt, 14-rebound, 3-block game vs Detroit. In this game, Kuzma and Dinwiddie drives got Robinson in foul trouble early; he had 3 fouls before the half and picked up a 4th at the beginning of the 2nd half. Robinson finished with 8 points and only 3 rebounds and 1 block in 25 minutes before fouling out.

Because of that, Jericho Sims got 22 minutes at center and looked pretty good — 3-3 shooting for 6 pts, and 6 rebounds. Taj Gibson played 7 minutes; Obi Toppin played 13.

The Boxscore


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