Lost four of five
After playing 17 of 23 games on the road, the Wizards returned home earlier this week seemingly with an opportunity ahead of them. They had five of their next six in D.C. where they have been much better this season. Yet so far through three games, the Wizards have not been able to capitalize on their schedule.
They won one of those games, a 16-point comeback against the Bulls. But they turned around and lost to the Knicks on Friday, making it two losses in three games to begin their homestand. They have lost four of their last five overall going back to Jan. 3.
Kyle Kuzma was a bright spot for the Wizards with 40 points, one short of his career-high, plus seven assists and seven rebounds, including a furious push down the stretch of the fourth quarter. But their offense was otherwise a mess, as they shot just 38.7% from the field. Washington was outscored 50-to-28 in the paint.
With this recent skid, the Wizards have dropped to 18-25 on the season with 12 games left to go before the trade deadline.
The Wizards had some good news and some bad news on the injury front before this game. The positive was that both Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford came back after a one-game absence, Porzingis due to rib soreness and Gafford a sprained ankle. The negative was that Bradley Beal remains out and Monte Morris had to sit due to a hamstring issue.
Beal, though, is heading in the right direction and it sounds like he could be back as soon as Monday. He was cleared for full on-court activities on Thursday. He's just not ready yet. Morris seems to be day-to-day. Regardless, it appears that overall things are looking up for the Wizards in the injury department. Getting Porzingis and Gafford back was huge, especially given they had to face Mitchell Robinson in this one.
Brunson and Randle came to play
The Wizards had an ideal start to this game defensively, holding the Knicks to 19 points in the first quarter on sub-30% shooting and under 40% for the first half overall. But New York got things going thanks to Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle, who scored their points in different ways. Randle, per usual, bruised his way through the paint while mixing in leaners in the midrange. He had 23 points and 16 rebounds, including an and-1 poster dunk that left Gafford shaken up after taking a forearm to the face.
Brunson was even better with 32 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. He was deadly from the midrange, shooting 12-for-24 for the evening, including three threes. Like Randle, Brunson forced the issue off the dribble by lowering his shoulder and getting to his spots. The Wizards have played some very physical teams lately between the Thunder, the Pelicans and the Knicks. All three proved to be tough matchups in a contrast of styles.
Kispert makes an impact
This game was the type the Wizards will hope to see more often from Corey Kispert as his career transpires. He made his impact with his shooting, spacing and cutting just as he was drafted to do. Kispert made the Knicks pay for a double team on Kuzma in the first half, as Kuzma found him cutting through the lane for an easy dunk. Porzingis also found him on the wing for an in-rhythm, catch-and-shoot three to beat a collapsing defense.
Kispert extended his career-high streak of making at least one three to 17 games. He finished the night with 13 points and five rebounds, shooting 4-for-6 from the field and 2-for-4 from three. Given how well he shot, maybe it would have helped the Wizards' offense if he took a few more attempts.
As of a few games ago, Rui Hachimura was on a heater that looked to be a sign of more to come. But he has really cooled off recently and that continued in this one. Hachimura missed his first five shots and ended up shooting 4-for-14 for the game, including 1-for-7 from three. He had nine points.
Over his last five games, Hachimura is averaging 9.0 points per game while shooting 31.5% from the field. That's a legitimate slump. The Wizards will hope he snaps out of it soon, as they saw the value he can bring as a bench scorer right before this downturn.