By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Wizards | Verizon Center
When: Saturday | 7:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (3-8): The Knicks don't want to think about moral victories, but that term was invented for games like Wednesday night's against the Pacers. Against a team tied for the best record in the NBA, New York fought hard and seemed to have the game under control until a last-second foul by Iman Shumpert allowed Indy to force overtime and steal the victory. The Knicks matched the Pacers' physicality and All-Stars Carmelo Anthony and Paul George went toe to toe all night, serving as a reminder of the six-game playoff series between the two teams last spring.
Washington (4-8): The Wizards were many people's pick to make the playoff jump this year. Finally armed with the right mix of lottery talent and veteran support, the thinking went, Washington would usher in a new era of competitiveness in the District. It hasn't gone that way, though, despite the early season trade that brought in center Marcin Gortat to pair with Nene along the front line. The Wizards' hopes are tied to the development of their starting backcourt, John Wall and Bradley Beal -- but for now, they are still waiting for these two to translate physical tools into consistent winning.
The Numbers Game
In seven games since taking over for injured Tyson Chandler as starting center, Andrea Bargnani is averaging 17.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 37percent from three and 48 percent from the field.
Matchup to Watch
John Wall vs. Beno Udrih
After signing him to a contract extension for the maximum amount of money allowed by the CBA, the Wizards are committed to Wall as a franchise cornerstone going forward. The former top overall pick is known for his blinding speed with the ball, but also, to the dismay of Wiz fans, his substandard shooting numbers. Despite reports of an improved jumper, the career 42 percent shooter his only connecting on 39 percent of his shots this year. He's most dangerous in transition, when he can get all the way to the basket or drive and kick to shooters. For Udrih, who has started the last two games for injured Raymond Felton, and the Knicks, getting back in transition will be crucial to slowing Wall down.
What to Look For
The Knicks are hoping to carry over the positive developments from Wednesday night. Udrih busted out for his best game as a Knick, scoring 19 points in nearly 38 minutes of aggressive play. In addition to running the offense, his task will be to lead the Knicks in "building a wall against Wall," as explained by assistant coach Jim Todd in his Keys to the Game. Second-year guard Bradley Beal is a lethal 3-point shooter (47 percent so far this season) and leads the Wizards in scoring at 21 points per game. But, like Wall, he's struggled from inside the 3-point line, so limiting his catch-and-shoot opportunities will be crucial. In addition to his usual scoring output, Anthony has been hitting the boards hard, averaging 9.5 rebounds per game this year. While he and Bargnani play as the starting power forward and center, both will need to keep up their strong glass work to win against Washington's bulky front court of Gortat and Nene.