Knicks, Wizards look to build on wins

For a team that hasn’t looked all that tough this season, the New York Knicks could present a much stiffer chin when the Washington Wizards come to town on Monday night than they did before Saturday’s overtime thriller over Eastern Conference heavyweight Milwaukee.

But there they were against the Bucks, finally flexing for perhaps the first time this season.

There was Mario Hezonja, waltzing all over Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. There was rookie Kevin Knox, dropping a career-high 26 points. There was David Fizdale, watching the Knicks deliver on his promise.

And there was Madison Square Garden, pulsing with energy after New York’s 136-134 win.

The Wizards are encountering a much different Knicks squad than the one that lost to Philadelphia 117-91 on Wednesday.

“The thing I was most proud of is we got blown out in Philly, they just literally embarrassed us, and one thing about our kids, we came back in the gym the next day. We didn’t hang our heads, didn’t doubt, just came back in the gym and got back to work,” Fizdale said after the win.

New York finds Washington on a bit of a confidence boost itself, after the Wizards held Brooklyn to just 88 points — a season-low for the opposition — in a 14-point win on Saturday, which followed a blowout loss to Philadelphia.

“I think we did a better job, especially against this team, compared to what we they did last time,” Washington coach Scott Brooks said. “Those straight line drives, we took those out. I thought the ball was contained. Our pick-and-roll coverage was good. We were inside, and we closed down some of those shooters. Got good effort from our guys.”

The Wizards’ star backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal snapped out of its funk against the Nets, combining for 52 points.

“When teams switch bigger guys on him, we did a good job of spacing,” Brooks said of Wall. “We still haven’t shot the ball well, but we did a good job of spacing. It allows him to attack and get to the paint. And he did that tonight. A lot of teams switch one-through-four, one-through-five and with his quickness he seemed to really get to the paint and attack. And also create for others. Nine assists, so that’s really an All-Star performance.”

Markieff Morris had 20 points and seven rebounds for the Wizards. Otto Porter, Jr. returned after missing Friday’s game and grabbed 11 rebounds.

The Knicks are still looking for that kind of consistent production from a backcourt that seemingly has a different player emerge every night.

On Saturday it was Knox who turned in a career-best performance.

“It’s going to be a matter of time before we get it to come out fully,” Fizdale said of Knox’ potential. “Like I said before, this kid works. He comes to work every day. He busts his butt and his teammates are rooting for him. This is going to be new territory for him after dropping 26 and seeing if he can come back and answer the bell.”