TThe Knicks’ heartbreaking 102-101 loss to the Wizards was a microcosm of the team’s struggles, as they tantalized the Garden crowd by clawing their way back into the contest, only to disappoint in the waning moments.
Bradley Beal made his return to the Wizards’ lineup after a nine-game hiatus due to a leg injury and made the Knicks pay by scoring the game-winning bucket with 6.9 seconds remaining, as he blew by New York’s third-string point guard Beno Udrih.
Knicks head coach Mike Woodson fell on the sword afterward, acknowledging the confusing finish to the game was on him.
“We knew we had a foul to give, but Beno opened the floodgates and it happened so fast. He was thinking the help was coming but it wasn’t there, so he couldn’t even reach and grab the guy to take the foul. That’s where the breakdown occurred. We all knew we had a foul to give,” said Woodson, who added he also dropped the ball when he didn’t call a timeout. “We talked about that. But then I didn’t call the timeout, so I’ve got to take the heat for that. I probably should’ve taken the timeout for sure at the end, but Beno grabbed it and the ball was in [Carmelo Anthony]’s hands before I could’ve reacted. I should’ve reacted a lot sooner once the ball went through the bucket. That’s on me.”
Anthony said it was admirable for his coach to take the blame, but he ultimately reasoned the errors should fall on the players.
“If he said it’s his fault, then it’s his fault. There’s no need for me to talk about that or make excuses for it,” Anthony said. “If he said it was his fault and he takes the blame, then he takes the blame. But as players we have to be smarter as well. We knew we had fouls to give. We can’t always leave it up to coach to do it. ... I can’t believe we lost the game.”
The Knicks lost because of Beal’s hot hand in the fourth, as he scored the Wizards’ final eight points. The second-year shooting guard registered 21 points for a Wizards squad that earned its first win in the Garden since Dec. 6, 2006.
Reserve swingman Martell Webster scorched the Knicks with a team-high 30 points on 9-of-13 shooting that included six 3-pointers. His point guard, John Wall, used his blazing speed and athleticism to baffle an undermanned Knicks’ backcourt with 19 of his 20 points in the first half. Wall also added six rebounds and a game-high eight assists.
New York was without the services of starting point guard Raymond Felton, who will be out at least a month with a bum hamstring. And Felton’s backup, Pablo Prigioni, broke his toe early in the third quarter to further decimate the Knicks’ backcourt. The Knicks said he will be out a few weeks.
Third-stringer Beno Udrih filled in admirably with 12 points and five assists in 30 minutes, but it wasn’t enough to slow down Wall, who is having an All-Star caliber season, or Beal, who blew by the flat-footed Udrih for the game-winner.
Woodson said with their point guard depth so shallow, he’ll need to be creative with the rotation.
“Pablo is going to be out a couple of weeks, so we have Beno and Toure Murry now and possibly some Iman [Shumpert] at the one [point guard],” Woodson said.
Anthony was on point all night with his stellar shooting (12-of-20), as he led the way again for the Knicks— a feat he’s done every game this season— by tallying a game-high 32 points. His heroics weren’t enough, however, as his desperate last-second heave came up short.
Knicks notes ...
» The Wizards didn’t have the services of power forward Nene. It was Washington’s first win without the burly forward, as they entered the game 0-6 without him.
» The Knicks turned in a very unselfish performance, as they registered 21 combined assists on 33 made field goals. J.R. Smith led the way for the Knicks with six assists, while Udrih added five.
» Anthony was an unlikely rim protector as he registered a game-high four blocked shots.
» Woodson said the miscommunication at the end of the game was on the entire team.
“[Andrea] Bargnani was positioned the other way and it should’ve either been a trap or a foul, and not a straight line to the rim,” Woodson said. “The help never got there in time and by that time, Beno already exposed himself.”
» Woodson liked what he saw from Smith, who arguably had his best shooting night of the season, going 6-of-16, including five 3-pointers.
“He looked like the J.R. of old,” Woodson said. “He had a bounce to his step and made some shots.”
» Smith was shocked Wizards center Marcin Gortat never came over for the screen on Beal’s winner, as the Knicks had expected.
“We wanted to send him to the big but there wasn’t a pick there to trap him and make him to pass it to Gortat,” Smith said. “But he never came over and he [Beal] just went [to the basket] and we never had the chance to foul him.”
Smith reasoned that the players should’ve known better— even if they all expected Woodson to call the timeout.
“As soon as the ball went through the net, I expected to get a timeout. But we have to do a better job as players,” Smith said. “We knew we had three timeouts. Guys have been in this league 10-11 years, so we can’t always put it in coach’s hands. We need to be generals out there. ... Woody will put it on himself, but we as players should know better.”
» Shumpert said although the final sequence was a mess, he’ll continue to trust his point guard and their franchise player.
“I probably should’ve helped and come over,” Shumpert said. “We should’ve been there to help. We talked about [fouling] but [Udrih] probably didn’t want to foul in the act of shooting. We have to trust our point guard’s judgment. ... If Melo has the ball at the end, I’ll take my chances [on a game-winner].”
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.