Despite the return of RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, and Quentin Grimes, the New York Knicks couldn’t overcome the Washington Wizards on Thursday night. Barrett cleared Covid health and safety protocols but was unavailable for the game. Only Toppin was able to make an appearance, playing in 13 minutes a contributing just two points and three rebounds.
After the news that Derrick Rose would be out for a minimum of eight weeks after undergoing surgery on his right ankle, the Knicks looked to Kemba Walker to pick up the slack, who showed up with a valiant performance.
Walker, who was clearly reinvigorated by Tom Thibodeau benching him for nine games, posted 44 points in the loss to Washington, contributing nine rebounds and assists. This was by far Walker’s most dominant game of the season, but he’s been productive over the past three games, posting 21 points against Detroit and 29 points against Boston.
Despite Kemba displaying offensive dominance, the Knicks’ defense still struggled, allowing 124 points to Washington. They allowed every starter for the Wizards to post double-digit points, including 21 from Spencer Dinwiddie. Two bench players also recorded 14+ points, including Deni Avdija and Montrezl Harrell.
The Knicks shot just 31% from three-point range on the game, with Evan Fournier connecting on just 2 of 11 shots. Julius Randle missed all five of his attempts from deep as well. Fournier’s inconsistencies this year have plagued the team at times, and heaving up 11 attempts with a less than 20% success rate is simply unacceptable for a player who just signed a four-year, $73 million deal.
Washington hit 43.2% from three-point range, which ended up being the difference-maker between the two teams. New York is now four games below .500 and preparing to take on the Atlanta Hawks on Christmas day. Luckily for the Knicks, the Hawks are expected to be without several key players, including their star point guard, Trae Young.
Hopefully, Thibodeau will return Barrett to the starting lineup, but Kemba Walker has clearly proven he deserves to remain with the team rather than being exiled to the bench once again.