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Hughes gets off bench and boosts Knicks over Wizards

Larry Hughes #0 of the New York Knicks

Larry Hughes #0 of the New York Knicks drives to the basket against the Washington Wizards. (February 3, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

Larry Hughes can trim that beard now.

The Knicks veteran, who had been left on the bench for the previous five games and for 13 of 15 games in January, was back in Mike D'Antoni's rotation, which seems to adjust in monthly cycles, and played a key role in a 107-85 win over the Wizards last night at the Garden.

D'Antoni hinted before the game about possible changes, mainly because of concerns that his team hasn't "had enough oomph the last few games." Hughes, who said after he sat through Sunday's loss in Minnesota that he was growing the beard until he played again, has made it clear he was annoyed that D'Antoni pulled him from the rotation on Jan. 1 in favor of Nate Robinson, who had a 14-game benching in December.

Last night D'Antoni played both players in his eight-man rotation and left rookie Jordan Hill on the bench along with ineffective Jonathan Bender. Hughes played almost 18 minutes and scored 11 points. Robinson played almost 35 minutes and led the Knicks (19-29) with 23 points.

In the second half, D'Antoni went exclusively without a point guard, as the team's starter, Chris Duhon, remained on the bench. On the court the floor general role went by committee. At times it was Hughes and Robinson and at other times Jared Jeffries and David Lee took control of the offense at the top of the arc. Duhon once again looked passive as he missed five of his six field-goal attempts for two points and two assists with two turnovers in 13:24.

The game began with a moment of silence for Hall of Famer Dick McGuire, who died earlier Wednesday at the age of 84. The Knicks will wear a patch on their uniforms with the No. 15 to memorialize McGuire for the rest of this season, starting in tomorrow's game against the Bucks. The uniforms made no reference to McGuire last night mainly because there wasn't enough time to have something made before the game.

Al Harrington, who returned after missing two games with a bruised knee, had 12 points. David Lee had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks, who snapped a three-game losing streak.

Randy Foye and Nick Young each had 15 points for the Wizards (16-32), who played without Caron Butler, out with a left knee injury.

The Knicks trailed 45-41 at the half, but behind eight points from Harrington, they outscored the Wizards 31-20 in the third quarter and held a 75-65 lead when Hughes opened the fourth with a three-pointer. The Wizards cut it to 84-79 on a three-pointer by Mike Miller with 7:05 left, but Hughes answered with a pull-up, Harrington had a dunk off a pass by Danilo Gallinari and then Lee scored on a layup with 5:11 to go to make it a 90-79 lead.

With two weeks before the Feb. 18 trading deadline, it does not appear the Knicks will be very active. It's almost assured they won't get involved in talks for some of the biggest names on the rumor mill, such as Amar'e Stoudemire and Ray Allen, mainly because the team's intention is to maintain as much salary-cap space as possible to rebuild the team through free agency and trades this summer.

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