The slumping Washington Wizards were hoping to use the new year as a starting point for a run back to .500. So far, they’re still looking like the team that underachieved during the latter part of 2005.
Washington will try to halt a three-game losing streak when it visits the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
The Wizards kicked off the new year and a stretch of five straight games against sub-.500 opponents with a disappointing 123-111 home loss to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.
“A disappointing start,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “But to start the new year, we have a five-game mission in front of us. We’re down one, and we’re still going to stay positive. We’ll see where the remaining four games of the five-game package will take us and we’ll measure ourselves after that.”
Gilbert Arenas, the Wizards’ leading scorer, was in top form against the Rockets, scoring 44 points. Arenas has five 40-point games this season, including three since a 112-111 win at Phoenix on Dec. 23. He had a career-high 47 points in last Friday’s 128-113 loss to Miami.
“It’s really frustrating because I don’t want to score that much,” Arenas said. “That means I’m exerting too much energy when this is a team game. I’m just going to keep going until I see my teammates coming along with me.”
The Knicks hope to gain momentum from Monday’s 140-133, triple-overtime home victory over Phoenix. Stephon Marbury had 32 points and 10 assists, Jamal Crawford scored 29 points and Eddy Curry added 20 points and a season-high 15 rebounds as New York ended a three-game losing streak.
“It shows what we have as a team,” Marbury said. “Whenever you can go on the court and play three overtimes with no one giving up, it shows what we can do on the court.”
The Knicks also got a strong effort from rookie forward David Lee, inactive for seven straight games earlier this season but recently moved into the starting lineup. Lee had season highs of 23 points and 15 rebounds against the Suns in just his third start in 18 games.
“The coach has been happy with me lately,” Lee said. “I just brought the same attitude I’ve been bringing … instead of bringing that attitude for five or 10 minutes I had a chance to bring it for some more time.”