Knicks eye bounce back win vs Wizards as Bradley Beal remains questionable

new york knicks, rj barrett
Mar 23, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) shoots the ball over Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

RJ Barrett is back in rhythm, while Bradley Beal remains questionable when the New York Knicks and Washington Wizards square off anew on Wednesday, this time at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks are eyeing getting back on track after suffering a 123-121 overtime loss to the Toronto Raptors last Monday that snapped a three-game winning streak. They have the Wizards’ numbers, having won their last three matchups, including a 112-108 close call in D.C. last week, with Beal out (left hamstring strain). The Wizards star has already missed five straight games, with the team losing four.

In his absence, Kyle Kuzma is averaging 23.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists. He torched the Knicks with 40 points as he led the Wizards’ failed comeback down the stretch.

It will be interesting to see how Thibodeau will scheme the Knicks’ defense against Kuzma, who is having a career year.

Wizards starting pivotman and former Knick Kristaps Porzingis, who wished he could go back and do things differently in his time in New York, is averaging 22.4 points and 7.6 rebounds during Beal’s five-game absence. He had a slow start against the Knicks last week but got hot in the fourth quarter hitting 12 of his 21 points.

Julius Randle is expected to bounce back and bully the Wizards frontcourt anew after he struggled on 7 of 20 shooting against the Raptors. Randle had 23 and 16 rebounds in their road win in the nation’s capital last week, part of a five-game stretch with at least 15 boards.

Jalen Brunson, fresh from being named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, is out for blood after missing the potential game-winner against the Raptors. He flirted with a triple-double against the weaker Wizards backcourt.

But the positive development for the Knicks is that Barrett has finally regained his rhythm. The Canadian forward scored 32 points against his hometown team. His coast-to-coast dunk with 0.6 seconds left in the regulation forced overtime.

It was his first 30-point game since his return from a lacerated right index finger.

Barrett’s return to form is integral to the Knicks’ success as he plays a dual role with the starters and the second unit.

Despite the loss last Monday, the Knicks are 15-7 since Thibodeau tweaked and shortened his rotation.

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