John Wall of the Washington Wizards brings the ball up the court against the New York Knicks during the second half at Verizon Center on January 6, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Perhaps the New York Knicks are happy to hit the road for a couple days. After two abysmal home losses to kick off the new year, the Knicks begin a short road stint on Friday night in Washington against the 0-6 Wizards. The Knicks had high expectations and visions of a deep playoff run. But a loss in Washington, and the Knicks would be just one game better than the lowly Wizards.
It's early yet for standings-watching with 60 games remaining in this truncated NBA schedule, but things are starting to get a little restless for the Orange and Blue. They surrendered 118 points in Wednesday's loss to the Charlotte Bobcats and left the court amid a chorus of boos from the Madison Square Garden crowd for the second straight night. The Knicks were supposed to be an improved defensive team. They hired Mike Woodson as an assistant coach and signed Tyson Chandler, both additions part of a movement towards a more defensive mindset. But the results have been iffy at best so far, as Howard Beck of the New York Times notes that the club's defensive statitstics are near the bottom of the league -- where they consistently have been during Mike D'Antoni's tenure as head coach.
New York has also shown itself as a top-heavy team with a severe lack of depth down the bench. They lean heavily on star Carmelo Anthony and to a lesser extent Amar'e Stoudemire. Rookie Iman Shumpert had 18 points off the bench on Wednesday against Charlotte, and its possible he could replace the struggling Landry Fields in the starting lineup against the Wizards. Shumpert has been impressive in his two games as a rookie (he missed four due to a sprained MCL) but starting him takes away from the already unproductive bench. Maybe a shakeup helps Fields, who has struggled to do much of anything right so far this season.
Nothing helps a losing streak like facing a poor opponent, and the Knicks face what is right now the worst team in the league. The Wizards rank 29th in the league in points-per-game at a dismal 85 per, and they allow an average of 98 a game, good for 25th (the Knicks rank 27th). John Wall is a year removed from being the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, but is struggling with turnovers and is shooting just 32 percent from the field. The Wizards are, overall, one of the poorer offensive teams in the league, especially from the perimeter. A bad defensive performance tonight could be a huge indictment on D'Antoni and this Knicks team in general.
Regardless of how the team performs tonight or how many points they allow, the Knicks just need wins. They don't come much easier in the NBA than tonight.