Wizards hope Howard provides magic vs. Knicks
Then it was all downhill.
The Wizards were routed by the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder 134-111 and Sunday, they host a New York Knicks team coming off a road win in Dallas.
Howard finished with 20 points on 7 of 8 shooting from the field with three rebounds in 23 hopeful minutes, but little else went right as Washington (1-7) continued to feature the NBA's worst defense.
"Dwight was the bright spot," coach Scott Brooks told NBCSportsWashington.com. "He played extremely well for the first game."
After missing training camp, preseason and the first seven games with a sore piriformis muscle, Howard fought through the continuing pain to make his Wizards debut. After the game, the 15-year veteran talked about the need for his teammates to remain upbeat.
"I hope it changes tomorrow," Howard told NBCSportsWashington.com. "It's just all a mentality we have to have every day when we wake up. It's going to change; it's going to get better. Fight through this. Be positive. That's the only thing I can do. That's the only way I know that works."
The Wizards trailed by 29 points at halftime Friday night to a team playing the second of road back-to-backs. Oklahoma City shot 57 percent from the field, including 15-of-32 from 3-point range.
Washington is allowing a league-worst 123.9 points per game and has given up 134 or more points three times in eight games. The Wizards are surrendering a league-worst 13.3 3s per game while committing 15 turnovers per outing.
"I have a lot of confidence in our guys staying together," Brooks said. "I also have confidence that our guys are going to play well. We're going to start playing better together. Dwight was obviously a start to that. We got to come back Sunday and play much better for 48 (minutes)."
The Knicks, meanwhile, are hoping their Friday night performance carries over into Sunday.
Rookie guard Allonzo Trier scored 19 of his career-high 23 points during a second-half surge, and fellow rookie center Mitchell Robinson had 13 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double as the Knicks (3-6) beat the Mavericks 118-106.
Tim Hardaway Jr. had 18 points and six rebounds for New York, which has won two of three.
Trier scored 14 points in the fourth quarter.
"When it's crunch time, I'm going to have to have him in more often than not down the stretch," Knicks coach David Fizdale told the New York Post. "I didn't want to risk any passes. I figured dribble the clock down and let him do what he does."
Robinson, Trier and Kevin Knox, who missed Friday's game and will likely sit Saturday with a sprained ankle, give a New York a formidable trio of rookies.
They are combining to score 25.5 points per game in the young season.
"Fiz has a lot of confidence in us," Knox told the New York Post. "He's going to let us play the way we play. A lot of rookies don't have that free style to go out and play their game. That's why I applaud Fiz. He lets us play our game and get a lot of minutes rookies don't get."