Knicks win third straight, gain momentum with Heat on deck
WASHINGTON -- With a game against the Miami Heat on deck, the Knicks altered their starting lineup, but not their fourth-quarter unit. In the end, the usual suspects polished off the Wizards.
Carmelo Anthony scored 30 points and Raymond Felton had 23 as the New York Knicks won their third straight with a 96-88 win over the Washington Wizards on Friday night.
J.R. Smith tallied 13 points and a career-high 12 rebounds for the Knicks (35-20), who opened the fourth quarter with 10 consecutive points after trailing 77-73.
Jason Kidd, who came off the bench after starting 48 of his 49 previous games this season, helped fuel the fourth-quarter pushes as New York closed the game of runs with a 9-2 finishing kick over the final 4:03.
"We locked down in spurts," Smith said. "We had the game won a few times, but let them back in [a few] times. We finally got rebounds, loose balls starting falling our way and after that it was off to the races."
Perhaps the Wizards (18-39) were in too much of a hurry after a 19-5 third-quarter spurt put them in front before the sellout crowd of 20,308. Washington missed its first seven shots in the fourth quarter and finished 3 of 17 in the period with five turnovers.
"We had three or four open-floor turnovers, where we didn't get a shot," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said following his team's second straight loss, both at home. "In a tight game -- gotta get an attempt."
Bradley Beal had a career-high 29 points and 11 rebounds, and Emeka Okafor had 11 points and 10 boards for the Wizards.
John Wall had 16 points, six assists and five turnovers for Washington, which had not lost consecutive home games since late December.
Kidd's score on a Wall goaltending call tied the game at 77-77. After Anthony sank a free throw following a technical foul on Wall, Kidd assisted on Smith's 3-pointer. Anthony's layup gave the Knicks their largest lead of fourth quarter at 87-79.
But the Wizards bounced back and scored seven straight, with Beal's 3-pointer making it 87-86, -- Washington's final field goal of the game.
Anthony's 3-pointer with over two minutes left gave the Knicks breathing room at 92-87.
"We got the usual guys out there finishing the game," Smith said. "That's more important than who starts the game."
Kidd, replaced in the starting lineup by James White, said he spoke with Woodson before the game. The two agreed the decision would benefit New York's second unit.
Perhaps it's no coincidence that the change came the first day of March after the 39-year-old shot 19.6 percent from the field during February. The pass-first playmaker disagreed.
"The shots have no effect of what I do on the floor," Kidd said. "I didn't come into the league as a scorer and it doesn't look like I'll leave as a scorer."
The Knicks shot just 8 of 28 from beyond the 3-point arc, but made 18 of 21 free throws.
Since Jan. 7, the Wizards were 11-4 against teams with winning records, including a 106-96 victory over the Knicks on Feb. 6.
Beal's 29 points are the most by a Wizard this season, and the rookie tallied his third double-double of the season. Washington has not had a 30-point scorer since Jordan Crawford had 32 on April 18.
Anthony, who finished 10 of 24 from the field, scored seven points during an 18-4 run that started in the second quarter and ended early in the third, as the Knicks led 63-52 with nine minutes left in the third quarter.
The Knicks closed the back-and-forth first half with a 9-0 spurt for a 54-48 lead as Smith sank consecutive 3-pointers and assisted on Anthony's fast-break layup.
Amar'e Stoudamire had 12 points for the Knicks, who were skidding before this current winning stretch. Next up for New York is the defending NBA champion Miami Heat, owners of the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks have won the previous two meetings.
"It's huge especially for confidence especially after losing four straight," Smith said about entering the rematch with momentum. "They're playing unbelievable basketball. We just have to get guys in the gym, make shots and come Sunday see where we're at."
Notes: Over his previous five games, Anthony had shot 34.5 percent (39 of 113) from the field. ... Chris Singleton replaced Nene (right shoulder) in the Wizards' starting lineup Friday. It was Singleton's first start since Dec. 18. ... Wizards reserve point guard A.J. Price did not play due to a right quad contusion. ... The two teams split their first two meetings this season. The season finale in the series is April 9 in New York. ... Beal sank his 76th 3-pointer of the season in the first quarter, establishing a Wizards rookie record. ... The Wizards close their three-game homestand Sunday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
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