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.