WASHINGTON (AP)—All season long, the Washington Wizards have frittered away fourth-quarter leads. On Friday night, the outcome was much different.
Trailing 87-81 with 4:35 to play, the Wizards ran off 15 straight points to break a six-game losing streak and beat the New York Knicks 96-89.
Washington has suffered 12 defeats after leading in the fourth quarter, and just two nights ago, they allowed New York to score 128 points against them.
Things didn’t look promising until Antawn Jamison, who led the Wizards with 28 points, hit a layup to start the big run. Mike James added a 3-pointer and Nick Young a jumper, and suddenly the Wizards had their first lead since early in the third quarter.
“It felt like somebody hit me in the stomach,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said.
D’Antoni’s team was looking for their first sweep of Washington since 2003-04. They’d scored 114, 122 and 128 in games against the Wizards, and when they took that fourth-quarter lead, the Knicks coach thought the game was over.
Then they missed nine straight shots.
“We felt like we had them tonight,” D’Antoni said.
Before the game, Washington interim coach Ed Tapscott agonized over his club’s increasing generosity. He didn’t want his team to be seduced by New York’s fast tempo.
“I’d say there’s a pattern there. Patterns shouldn’t surprise you,” Tapscott said.
After watching just the fourth win in 21 games, Tapscott was a little more sanguine.
“Trust me, this is our kind of game,” Tapscott said. “It takes a whole team to win a game.”
James finished with 19 points for the Wizards, while Young—who set career highs in three of his past four games, including 33 points against New York on Wednesday—finished with 13.
Before the game, Tapscott warned his new prodigy that teams weren’t going to allow him to score 30 points every night, and he’d have to show some other skills. Young blocked a late shot by Chris Duhon and then scored the decisive basket.
“I knew what (Duhon) was going to do. I just jumped,” Young said. “I got a spark off that block.”
After averaging 25 points in his last four games, Young had to suspect the Knicks might be keying on him.
“They came out with some defensive schemes that I ain’t seen since college,” Young said. “You saw me out there a little frustrated.”
Jamison has become weary of trying to explain away the team’s fourth-quarter meltdowns and shoddy defense. In the last two losses to the Knicks, the Wizards allowed 35 and 36 points right out of the gate.
“How are you planning to set the tone when you allow a team to score 35 points in the first quarter?” Jamison said. “They really had to work tonight.”
“It still hasn’t sunk in that we lost,” Lee said. “I thought we outplayed those guys tonight without even shooting it well in the first half.”
In that first half, the Knicks trailed 49-37—thanks to a horrid second quarter where they shot just 14.3 percent from the field.
The Knicks outscored Washington 29-9 to start the third quarter. They led 67-58 with 3:09 to play, thanks to 11 points from Chandler.
“That’s a Mike D’Antoni team,” Jamison said. “They’re going to shoot it, no matter what.”
The Knicks were without F Tim Thomas, who was out with flu-like symptoms. … C Eddy Curry missed his fourth straight game with a sore right knee. … F Danilo Gallinari, who hadn’t played since Oct. 31 with a sore back, was in uniform but did not play. … The Wizards handed commemorative issues of the Nov. 5 Washington Post marking Barack Obama’s election.