What a letdown. The Washington Wizards fell to the Atlantic Division-leading New York Knicks, 96-88, after keeping things close for almost the entire game. Bradley Beal was awesome and, despite missing two key late-game free throws, managed to score a career high 29 points while pulling down 11 rebounds. Unfortunately, it just wasn't enough to overcome New York's offensive firepower. Carmelo Anthony was superb, scoring 30 points and getting to the line nine times. Raymond Felton was also big for New York, as the former Tarheel did a good job of getting into the paint and getting Washington's defenders out of position.
Game notes are below and go a bit more in-depth about this, but the key takeaway from tonight's game is that Beal is really coming into his own as an offensive player. He struggled in isolation, excelled at everything else and was far and away Washington's best player. He made almost every key shot and did a good job of avoiding getting sucked into a game of one on one with JR Smith. He's still a rookie, and made his share of mistakes, yet it's becoming clearer and clearer that Beal and Wall are going to be an excellent backcourt tandem for many years.
- Washington was aggressive early on and New York appeared mildly out of sync. Wall looked good in transition and had two gorgeous assists early on. New York countered with a lot of dribbling and only a few good looks, but didn't start to put up points until getting out into transition and swinging the ball to open three point shooters.
- It's still early, but Singleton is having a lot of success guarding Carmelo. Singleton's length really seems to bother Melo and he had a nasty block on one of Anthony's post ups late in the first quarter.
- Lots of back and forth throughout the first quarter, which culminated with Washington falling behind 26-23. This has been an ugly game and the Wizards could really use Nene's scoring and playmaking. Beal and Ariza have both had to toss up last-second heaves due to the team's inability to create good shots and their offensive woes got much more severe once Wall exited the game.
- Washington's offense actually snapped its cold streak as the second quarter began. Ariza, Temple and Beal hit flukey shots, while New York missed a few easy ones. Things picked up once Wall came back in and Melo heated up, and Washington eventually opened up a three point lead late in the period.
- This one is really coming down to which team can avoid taking bad shots. Smith is the worst offender for the Knicks, while Ariza and Singleton are the only Wizards who have taken any groaners. Washington's being a bit more disciplined, but that tends to stop once Ariza's on the floor without Wall.
- New York went on a run to close the period and led 54-48 at the half. Anthony had 15 for the Knicks, while Beal led Washington with 11 points on four of eight shooting.
- Iman Shumpert is crazy long and quick. Beal's still managed to excel when he's been on him, which is a testament to his craftiness.
- The Wizards got it back to 68-69 New York after a couple of highlight-worthy jumpers. The team is just so much better in transition than in the halfcourt, especially when Wall is able to kick out to Beal or Webster when they run to the corners.
- Beal was awesome in the third quarter. He's incredibly fundamentally sound and this is manifesting itself time and time again as he always seems to get open, make the right pass, follow his shot and make the game look easy. His 12 point quarter was capped off by forcing JR Smith to airball a jumper to close the third.
- Washington fell apart in the fourth quarter, almost entirely due to a scoring drought. With 6:43 left in the game and the score 87-80 New York, Washington had only scored three points in the quarter. The main culprit was poor shot selection and hero ball. That's not Webster or Beal's game, and the team suffers almost every time they stop playing to their strengths.