(21-28) -- (27-20)
|Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.||MSG||7:00 PM EST|
|New York Knicks||Washington Wizards|
|Lance Thomas - Left orbital fracture (OUT)||Danuel House Jr - Right wrist fracture (OUT)|
|Derrick Rose - Sprained left ankle (OUT)||Ian Mahinmi - Platelet-rich plasma treatment on both knees (OUT)|
WASHINGTON -- Two months is no small sample size and what the Washington Wizards have done over that span turned them from a struggling team into an Eastern Conference contender. What the New York Knicks do with Carmelo Anthony over the next two to three weeks could impact the entire NBA.
The Wizards (27-20) enter their third meeting of the season with the Knicks (21-28) Tuesday night riding a four-game winning streak, a stat that doesn't begin to express the enormity of Washington's turnaround.
Since Dec. 1, the Wizards are an Eastern Conference-best 21-9. They have won 11 of their last 13 games, including Sunday's 107-94 victory at the New Orleans Pelicans. Washington also topped three fellow East playoff hopefuls last week. The 123-108 rout over the Boston Celtics, the current No. 2 seed, on Jan. 24 extended the Wizards' home win streak to 14 games.
"I would say this has been our best week of the season," said All-Star guard John Wall after he had 18 points and 19 assists against the Pelicans. "The biggest thing is we've been able to win on the road and that's the biggest thing. We're on our way back home and hope we can keep it going."
The Wizards are 2-0 against the Knicks this season. Anthony scored 34 points in the previous meeting, but Wall made big buckets late and Otto Porter sank six 3-pointers in the 113-110 win.
Despite constant rumors about his days in New York possibly ending before the Feb. 23 NBA trade deadline -- or perhaps fueled by them -- Anthony is thriving offensively. Including the meeting against the Wizards, he has scored at least 30 points in four of his last six games topped by his season-high 45 before fouling out of New York's 142-139 quadruple-OT loss at the Atlanta Hawks.
"That's when I have to focus in," Anthony told Newsday. "When you get off the court, you got to start dealing with all of that. When you're in between those lines, it's all about basketball, all about the game of basketball."
New York, 25th in the NBA in scoring defense, has lost six of nine, falling to 11th in the East.
"A lot of adversity," guard Courtney Lee said. "The good teams, the strong players, will get through it. I have no doubt in my mind that this team has good chemistry, good poise, good togetherness, good individuals and tough individuals that we'll pull through it."
There were questions if the Wizards would pull through following a 3-9 start. Beyond Wall, backcourt partner Bradley Beal and coach Scott Brooks, credit Washington's frontcourt for helping fuel the surge.
Center Marcin Gortat remains a constant double-double threat while Porter leads the NBA in 3-point shooting at 46.8 percent. Markieff Morris, acquired at the 2016 NBA trade deadline, is turning in one of the better months of his career.
Washington's starting power forward is averaging 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds in January while hitting 41 percent of his 3-point attempts. He had 21 points and eight rebounds against New Orleans while sinking all three of his 3-point attempts.
"I thought Kieff was huge in that second half, especially in that fourth quarter when we were not playing well," Brooks said. "He came in and gave us some buckets and gave us some rebounds. He just gave us a confidence that we can get back to how we were playing."