Knicks beat Wizards with spellbinding ball movement and shooting wizardry

The New York Knicks shot the lights out of Capital One Arena in a dazzling display of firepower to defeat the Washington Wizards, 117-99, Saturday night despite missing their All-Star Julius Randle.

The Knicks hit 24 of 52 three-pointers that would have broken their record 20 made three-pointers, which they did thrice (2011, 2013, and 2018), per Stat Muse. The 52 attempts also would have eclipsed their previous record of 51 attempts they recorded on January 29, 2017, against the Atlanta Hawks, according to Stat Muse.

Kevin Knox and Obi Toppin stepped up in the absence of Randle, who is expecting his second child. The backup power forwards dealt the Wizards the telling blows in each half.

Knox, who had fallen off Tom Thibodeau’s rotation, made the most out of the rare opportunity, scoring 12 points, all coming from beyond the arc and in the first half where the Knicks seized a 13-point lead. But the Wizards recovered from the early trouble and trimmed the Knicks’ lead, 59-55 at the half.

Toppin, who started in place of Randle, battled back from early foul woes and scoreless first half to lead the Knicks’ second-half breakaway. The 2020 eighth pick scored 11 points in the third quarter sparking an 18-2 run that broke the game wide open. His six-point cluster ended in a wide-open three-pointer at the 6:49 mark of the third quarter to put the Knicks in control from a tight 64-62 game.

“A lot of guys stepped in. I thought Obi played really well. I thought Kevin came in and gave us really good minutes,” Tom Thibodeau said. “So that was good to see. I like the depth of our team.”

The Knicks followed up their 26 assists in their preseason debut with 27 as their spellbinding ball movement, and shooting wizardry was too much for the Wizards.

Nine Knicks players hit at least two three-pointers each.

“It’s one of the things that we’ve worked hard at for the last two years and over the summer and also the guys that we’ve brought in,” Thibodeau said. “They’re very efficient at shooting them, so their shot profile is right and then making the right reads. That’s probably the most important thing. The ability to go off the dribble, attack the rim, and made the proper rim read, hit the open man. And when guys make the extra pass, we’re gonna have good rhythm threes.”

Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker added two three-pointers each. Rookie Quentin Grimes came in the final 1:46 and fired back-to-back three-pointers.

But on top of their much-improved offense, the Knicks’ defense hasn’t lost a step. They held the Wizards under the century mark and 38.2 percent shooting.

RJ Barrett led the Knicks in scoring with 18 points on 4-of-8 threes and four assists while shadowing Bradley Beal. The Wizards star scored 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting in 25 minutes. He was held to just three points in the third quarter and didn’t play the fourth quarter as the Knicks’ lead swelled to as big as 24.

Derrick Rose, who tweaked his ankle late in the game, was a perfect 3-for-3 from 3 and totaled 15 points and a game-high eight assists off the bench.

The pair of Taj Gibson and rookie Jericho Sims played solid in the middle for the second straight game, with Mitchell Robinson still recovering from a foot injury and Nerlens Noel nursing a sore right knee.

The 36-year old Gibson had eight points and six rebounds as the starter, while Sims pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds with seven points and three steals.

The Knicks will have a four-day rest before hosting the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday at the Garden.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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