Tuesday night marked the first Washington Wizards victory in Madison Square Garden in seven years. Fueled by the return of starting shooting guard Bradley Beal after a three-week hiatus due to a leg injury, the Wizards now sit at 10-13 and would hold the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs if they started today.
After dropping four games in a row, Washington found its spark by way of Beal's 21 points and team-high seven rebounds—not bad for someone who head coach Randy Wittman "expected to get some minutes" (via Michael Lee of the Washington Post).
A solid win for the Wizards aside, the bigger story lies in the continued struggles of the highly projected New York Knicks.
With just seven seconds remaining, Beal blew by Knicks defender Beno Udrih for the go-ahead bucket. The help-side defense that should have arrived in the form of Iman Shumpert was absent, but what happened next was even more troubling.
With three timeouts on the table, head coach Mike Woodson opted to not utilize one to draw up a play—leading to a forced shot at the buzzer by Carmelo Anthony, over two defenders, that didn't even come close to its target.
Woodson deflected blame by noting that the Knicks had a foul to give and Udrih didn't use it (via NBA.com).
The continued failure in New York seemed to culminate in this critical coaching blunder, and many New Yorkers are now calling for change.
Beal's game-winner and Woodson's poor judgment generated significant attention via Twitter.
On the replay of the last basket Carmelo looks toward the bench to see if Mike Woodson is going to call timeout before asking for the ball.— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) December 17, 2013
Awful loss & telling post game comments. “If he said it’s his fault, it’s his fault," Carmelo says of Mike Woodson. http://t.co/JrT8Zsdush— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) December 17, 2013
Tyson Chandler nears return while New York Knicks lose Amar'e Stoudemire for 'a while' http://t.co/mVdsJeujv6— ESPN New York (@ESPNNewYork) December 17, 2013
The Wizards will round out the 2013 calendar year by playing four of their next five games on the road, including a showdown with the upstart Brooklyn Nets, who have won four of their last five games.
This will be Washington's second of three matchups against the Nets, the first of which ended in a Wizards overtime victory. It was a game in which Nets All-Star Paul Pierce didn't score until overtime. Had the former Boston Celtic gone scoreless, it would've been the first of such an occasion since March 9, 1999.
It's fair to say that the Knicks are a disappointment. For a roster of individuals that has been to 15 NBA All-Star games, between Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Tyson Chandler and Metta World Peace, more was expected of this team.
Though the Knicks continue to battle injuries to Chandler and Stoudemire, they're not even close to making a move in the standings—sitting just a game out of last place in the Atlantic Division.
For as good as the Wizards seem to be playing at the moment and as poorly as the Knicks have competed thus far, they're still only separated by 3.5 games in the Eastern Conference standings and there's a long way to go in the 2013-14 season.
Unless otherwise stated, all stats were acquired via NBA.com