With only nine games left in the regular season, Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said there’s one thing the team needs heading into the playoffs: urgency.
They showed some at times Sunday against the woeful New York Knicks, but couldn’t sustain it for the full 48 minutes, and the result was a 101-97 loss at home, the team’s third straight defeat as the postseason looms.
The Wizards (40-33) held the Knicks to just 19 points in the first quarter, but allowed 42 in the second quarter.
New York ranks in the bottom of the league in offensive efficiency, compared to Washington, which ranks ninth. However, both teams scored fewer than 20 points in the third quarter.
The loss keeps the Wizards as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference standings, just a one game ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks. If the playoffs ended today, Washington would face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.
“We’re struggling [to score] the ball right now,” Brooks said. “We’re missing a lot of easy shots – layups, tip-ins, dunks. Those are the [buckets] you have to make.”
Coming into Sunday’s contest, the Wizards had won 15 of the past 16 games against the Knicks.
The team statistics were as close as the final score suggested. Both teams each committed 14 turnovers, made 10 steals and hit six 3-pointers. The Wizards grabbed 46 total rebounds, just two more than the Knicks with 44.
New York (27-47) went 41-for-88 from the floor at nearly 47 percent. Washington went 37 of 87, at 42.5 percent.
The Wizards had possession with a 95-94 lead and less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter, but forward Kelly Oubre Jr. missed an ill-advised 3-pointer, then fouled former Wizards guard Trey Burke at the other end for a three-point play with 35 seconds left, and the Knicks wouldn’t trail again.
“Yeah, we’ve had a few of those [teaching moments],” Brooks said. “It’s time to pick up those moments and internalize them. …We can’t foul in that situation. We can’t do it.”
Wizards guard Bradley Beal defended Oubre’s decision to shoot the 3-pointer.
“He was open,” said Beal, who led the Wizards with 14 points but shot just 5 of 17 from the field. “If he made it, we would have been like, ‘Aww, yeah, that’s a great shot.’ Because he missed it, we are going to try and analyze one way or another. It’s not his fault that we lost the game.”
Burke, who played for Washington last season, had a game-high 19 points along with three assists in his first start since exactly three years ago on March 25, 2015, when he played with the Utah Jazz.
“I try not to be emotional about it,” he said of his return. “Coming back here [and] playing with those guys all last year, you want to do good. You want to win the game. We won the game and that’s the biggest thing.”
Washington will complete its three-game home stand Tuesday against the San Antonio Spurs, which defeated the Wizards 98-90 Wednesday.
Happy 40th Anniversary
The Wizards organization also paid homage at halftime to the 1978 Bullets championship squad. Fans also received a light-blue commemorative T-shirt.
Hall of Famer Wes Unseld, who was represented by wife Connie at the ceremony, recorded a video message for the ceremony.
“I am so proud of the accomplishments and I am proud of the way we came together to become NBA champions,” he said. “I will forever be grateful of being a Washington Bullet.”