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Wizards plan: Don't get caught up in Knicks coaching drama


Wizards plan: Don't get caught up in Knicks coaching drama

Matchup: Washington Wizards (22-27) at New York Knicks (23-31)

When: Monday, 8:00 p.m. (TV: CSN+, CSNMidatlantic.com via NBC Sports Live Extra) 

Season series: New York leads 1-0. Carmelo Anthony scored 37 points in New York's 117-110 victory in Washington on Halloween.

Streaks: Including Saturday's 108-104 loss at Charlotte, Washington has dropped eight of 11 since Jan. 16 -- and yet New York is even worse lately. The Knicks have lost five in a row and 9 of 10.

Three things to know:

That's their problem: Even though the Knicks are much improved over last season's debacle, the organization (Phil Jackson) fired head coach Derek Fisher Monday after 1 1/2 seasons. Kurt Rambis takes over as interim coach with the first game coming against the Wizards. Not that Rambis, who bombed in previous head coaching jobs, will fix this, but such change can lead to dramatic turns, at least in the short term. With two games left before the All-Star, the Wizards cannot afford to get caught up in whatever emotions are transpiring on the other bench. "With the situation that happened [Monday] with Derek Fisher,  a lot of times with situations like that especially the game after teams come out playing hard and playing with a chip on their shoulder," Wizards guard Garrett Temple said. "We got to make sure we know who we're going up against." 

The Wizards are going against the Knicks and the Bucks before going their separate ways for the long break. The going for a playoff becomes much tougher if they don't win these games. Washington is tied for 10th in the East and three games behind Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot. "It's unfortunate they're losing their coach," Wizards forward Jared Dudley said. "We just got to worry about us and try to get into a good rhythm before we go into the break. It's a big game us. Probably a big game for them."

Wing and a prayer: Carmelo Anthony torches most opponents. He certainly did so against the Wizards in the initial meeting this season. The thing is, he's hardly the only small forward or shooting guard that's found scoring success against Washington. "We've had trouble with wings that can score throughout the whole year, that put a lot of pressure. [on our defense]," Dudley said.  However, based on recent outings, Anthony might not be the wing to fear, though he really is. Over his last 10 games, Anthony is only shooting 33.3 percent from the field. In three games in February, that drops to 28.3. He sat out Friday's game against Memphis with a sore left knee, but scored 21 points on 7 of 19 shooting in Sunday's 101-96 loss to Denver. Meanwhile, wing guard Arron Afflalo (17.8 ppg over last four games) and rookie dynamo Kristaps Porzingis (19 ppg, 11.5 rebounds, four blocks last two games) have stepped up.

Garden Party: The Knicks won in Washington this season, but the Wizards fare quite nicely in New York, entering this contest with a four-game winning streak at Madison Square Garden. John Wall averaged 17.5 points on 54 percent shooting with 9.0 assists in two games in New York last season. The Knicks have lost four straight home games.

RELATED: Morning tip: Maybe Wizards just don't have 'it'

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

At his final media availability of the 2017-18 season, John Wall highlighted specific types of players he wanted to see added to the Wizards roster this summer. Most notably, he pointed to an athletic big and bench scoring.

The Wizards ended up adding those things and more.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green to free agent deals, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. Howard is the athletic big and Rivers is the bench scorer Wall coveted.

Whether coincidental or not, Wall got his wish. And he's excited for the possibilities now that the Wizards appear to have shored up some weaknesses.

In his recent interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall offered thoughts on each key addition.

On Howard: "Even though he's older, he's still an athletic big and still has respect in this league. I mean, averaging [16.6 ppg and 12.5 rpg], he's a guy who can score in the low-post and block shots, a guy that gets a lot of rebounds and a guy that can catch lobs and do things that when teams switch against us or we're attacking the paint, if they help for a second then we're throwing lobs. Now, do you get more layups? Probably. Or, you get more wide open threes because guys are going to have to crack down on him. If you don't crack down on him, that's an automatic layup or a lob. I think that benefits us a lot. It's going to help. If you look at [Clint] Capela, DeAndre [Jordan] and those types of guys that are athletic, JaVale [McGee]. Even JaVale at times, being athletic and just getting to the paint. Guys are stepping up and you're throwing lobs to those guys. We have a person that can do that."

On Rivers: "I think it's going to be fun and interesting. Austin is someone who I've always watched since high school. He's a competitive guy. He definitely can score the ball. High volume shooter, once he gets it going, he's going. I think it just gives us that guy that we've never really had off the bench, that can create for himself and can create for his teammates at the two-guard position."

On Green: "Just being able to switch one through four, a guy that can post up if you put smaller guys on him. He can guard every position. He's athletic and can run the floor with us in transition. He does the little things that a lot of people don't notice."

On Brown: "He's very poised for his age. He doesn't try to force anything. The only thing I would tell him is just be more aggressive... and make mistakes. Try to make mistakes and improve your game to get better. It's going to be hard to find minutes and at practice at times with [Kelly Oubre, Jr.] and Otto [Porter, Jr.] and those guys being there."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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