WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Star-power was the deciding factor for the Knicks Friday night, as Carmelo Anthony's 37 points aided New York in overcoming lethargic defense and a poor first quarter. Nick Young's last second three-pointer clanked off the back iron to secure a 99-96 Knicks victory.
Star-power is also why the Wizards were in a position to hand New York what would have been a catastrophic loss. For the first time all season, John Wall fit the description of a superstar scorer, totaling 22 points on 10-of-22 shooting.
For a few moments it looked like Washington indeed was going to have a reason to smile in the locker room. Wall's burst up the court and diving under-handed layup gave the Wiz a 96-95 lead left with 47 seconds left.
I had little expectations to see the progress I saw from Wall tonight. The 21-year-old had been tormented by unfriendly rolls off the rim and poor timing on layups in the previous six games. Friday night eight of his 10 shot conversions were on drives to the hoop. It felt like we were watching somebody special with the ball.
Wall's blazing start gave himself -- and more vitally the Wizards in general -- the tenacity that has clearly been lacking all season. His 10 first quarter points put the team in action mode rather than the reactive state of mind they've been playing in. If Wall had played similarly to his efforts earlier this week, the Knicks more than likely run away with this contest.
Washington can beat half the teams in the league with performances like the one Friday against the Knicks. They shot 48.2 percent, shared the rock and made plays defensively that counted. This loss was actually bearable. In a rebuilding effort, you can't drive yourself crazy and expect the world in a gift basket. These things take time.
Biggest Blunders of the Game
*The Wizards trailed 95-94 with just over 1:30 left to play. Carmelo drove to the left side for a short jump shot just outside the paint. Anthony was emphatically rejected by JaVale McGee, arguably the most valuable block in his career. The Wizards center raced up the court after catching an outlet pass. Unfathomably, he couldn't corral home a must have dunk because of Mike Bibby.
The 33-year-old journeyman somehow made it down the hardwood to slap McGee just hard to enough to alter the slam attempt. JaVale would go on to miss both free throws -- of course he would -- and the potential winning opportunity was blown. Bibby sank three big triples in the second half. He was an unsung hero for New York.
*Midway through the fourth, down 86-81 with six minutes and change left, Chris Singleton picked Mike Bibby's pocket and was headed for what looked like was going to be a shattering dunk. But Singleton jumped entirely too early and front rimmed the jam, causing players and fans to lose a little confidence in the brewing Wizards comeback.
*Even on the last play of the game, Washington found a way to botch an opportunity. Wall couldn't locate a wide open Jordan Crawford on his inbound pass with 2.8 seconds left and instead Nick Young threw up a prayer. On second judgment, maybe someone taller like Singleton should have been passing the basketball in play.
*How rejuvenating was it to see Rashard Lewis and Andray Blatche's minutes trimmed for both Chris Singleton and Trevor Booker? Finally Flip Saunders threw together his best lineup and disregarded the money amount listed next to a certain players' name.
Let's start with Singleton. 12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Forget the fact he missed that dunk. Forget the fact that Carmelo Anthony gave Singleton his 'welcome to the NBA moment' by frying him in the second quarter.
When Singleton is playing well, other Wizards can feed off of his play making. He prides his game in getting defensive stops, and that's no cliche. Whose the last Wizard to play that way? And the rookie can shoot from the outside. His two three-pointers late in the third matched a strong Knicks run at the time. He's everything Rashard Lewis is not.
Trevor Booker brings a similar passion to the Wizards but its in a totally different style. The bulldog-like forward bangs harder in the paint than anyone else on the roster. It's like he's playing basketball for the very last time when he's in the game. I counted four separate occasions that Booker was either diving on the court or into the seats for loose balls. He was marking Carmelo for most of the crucial moments in the fourth. 'Melo did hit the game winning shot after freeing himself from Booker, but his effort was admirable.
*Nick Young had his best game of the season. The 32 first quarter points featured 12 points from the shooting guard. Young played the entire first without having to worry about Jordan Crawford. That's something we hopefully will see more of in the future. Young ended up with four three-pointers made and 24 points. His 20 shot attempts were a season high.
*I feel like I'm beating a dead horse so I'll keep it short: Rashard Lewis minutes need to be on par with someone like Kevin Seraphin or even Maurice Evans AKA zero. Tonight he literally quit playing, by picking up two quick fouls and committing five turnovers. On one play he passed the ball straight to Carmelo.
Every game on the jumbotron the Washington players answer a prerecorded interactive message. Friday's question asked the players if they pay with cash or credit. Lewis answered "straight cash" with almost an evil laugh. It was just arrogant if you ask me.
*Jan Vesely never even took off his warm-up jersey. He saw zero action in a game where two of the front court starters weren't exactly effective. It's far too early for me to accurately asses his play, but it is looking like Vesely may become a project player not capable of sustaining serious minutes. Like a glorified version of Peter John Ramos. Eek.
*JaVale McGee had some alluring plays on defense, but he also took several plays off. There were three different occasions that the big man didn't even make it up the court on offense. He was efficient offensively going 6-for-9 with 13 points. I just felt like he wasn't all there mentally.
*My one gripe with John Wall is how bad his shot selection (not layup selection) was in the fourth. I felt like he rushed two attempts in the closing minutes, specifically a three. Wall hasn't hit one downtown shot all year and should never be taking deep shots with the game on the line. At least yet.
*More than I can ever recall, Andray Blatche was being harrassed by the fans. You know that jeering type of murmuring you can hear after a bad play at a stadium? Blatche was getting that kind of treatment every time he touched the ball. And he didn't play terribly. Just kind of Blatchey, you know?
With the continued glimmer of hope Singleton and Booker are evidently providing, Blatche's fuse in Washington is growing shorter by the game.
"We could've folded when they came back but we didn't. The two things that hurt us tonight -- points off of turnovers and we shot 61 percent from the free throw line." Flip Saunders
"I hope everyone's attitude is positive right now. As long as we have that effort every night, we should turn things around." Andray Blatche
"We did a good job trusting each other." John Wall
"They both stepped up to the big test of guarding Carmelo and never backed down." Nick Young on Trevor Booker and Chris Singleton.
"I think we defintely got better. We actually hit them first and usually the other team hits us first. So that's a step." Trevor Booker
"I can play with the best, is what I learned from this game." Chris Singleton.
"I thought we played well. We contested shots and they shot 43 percent. So it's not like they shot lights out." Flip Saunders.