Though the Washington Wizards have just 13 victories, five are against leaders of the six NBA divisions.
John Wall had 21 points and nine assists, Trevor Ariza scored a season-high 20 points, and the Wizards snapped the New York Knicks’ five-game winning streak with a 106-96 victory Wednesday night.
Washington held the Knicks, who had won the last 10 meetings, to just nine 3-pointers. In the previous two games, New York had 33.
The Wizards have also beaten Miami, Oklahoma City, the Los Angeles Clippers, and Chicago, which was leading the Central on Jan. 26. San Antonio is the only division leader to beat Washington.
”I’d like to play our best against everyone,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.
Washington had six players score in double figures for the fourth time this season. Martell Webster added 19 points, Nene had 13 points and 10 rebounds, Emeka Okafor scored 12 and Chris Singleton 10.
Wall, playing in front of his college coach, John Calipari, and Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, scored 10 points in the fourth quarter as Washington took control with its best fourth quarter of the season – outscoring the Knicks 36-23 and shooting 68.4 percent.
”We went flat,” New York coach Mike Woodson said. ”We were just there thinking we were going to show up and come out of here with a win, and it just didn’t happen. It was awful across the boards, starting at the top with me.”
When the teams met in New York on Nov. 30, the Knicks won by 21. This game was much different.
”Most teams in our situation – we get up for those big games. You know it’s going to be a packed crowd. You don’t want to get blown out and start hearing the boo chants,” Wall said.
It wasn’t a totally wonderful night for Wall, who equaled a season high with six turnovers, including one egregious one with just under four minutes to play.
”He got a little winded, and that one pass in the corner that he threw to your ghost of some other mother – or whatever – he was tired,” Wittman said.
”We were in a situation where I wasn’t going to take him out.”
Ariza, who missed 17 games with a left calf injury earlier this season, has played solidly and more often in recent games, and his four-point play to start the fourth quarter gave the Wizards a 74-73 lead. His 3-pointer pushed Washington’s advantage to 88-80 with 8:36 to play.
The Wizards aren’t scheduled to play a game against a team currently leading its division until March 1, when they again host the Knicks. New York, which has its best record since the 1996-97 season, had many fans at the Verizon Center.
”I forgot what city I was in a couple of times,” Okafor said.
Ariza discounted the notion that his team tries especially hard against the league’s best.
”I don’t think that’s something we intend to do. We just play hard every night,” Ariza said.
New York never got closer than 97-92 with 2:57 to play and the Wizards pulled away at the end.
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 31 points. Amare Stoudemire scored 19 and Raymond Felton had 17.
”You can’t beat a team, I don’t care who it is, giving up 36 points in the fourth,” Anthony said.
”I think it was a lack of communication out there.”
It was a highly entertaining first quarter with both teams shooting over 50 percent and only five combined fouls. Washington raced to a 16-5 lead in the first 4 1/2 minutes, but New York led 29-28 after one.
The second quarter was a much slower-paced one, with neither team taking more than a four-point lead and the Wizards scoring the last six points of the half to lead 51-48 at the break.
In the third, Washington took a seven-point lead early in the quarter, but the Knicks scored nine straight points near the end and led 73-70 going to the fourth.
Notes: Woodson told reporters at Wednesday’s shootaround that F Rasheed Wallace, who hasn’t played since Dec. 13 with a sore left foot, should return to practice after the All-Star break. … Washington G Bradley Beal missed his fifth straight game with a sprained right wrist. … Wall and Stoudemire were assessed technical fouls for pushing each other late in the first half. … New York C Tyson Chandler had 13 rebounds. He had 20 in each of his previous three games, tying a team record.