The Knicks showed they don't have the triangle offense down to a science just yet, and when shots aren't falling, they tend to fall back on some of their old habits.
With a chance to register their third straight win on a night when John Wall was unspectacular, the Knicks sputtered offensively and fell, 98-83, to the Wizards Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks (2-2) crumbled under the Wizards' defensive game plan, which pressured the ball up top and denied passes inside. The Knicks shot 30-for-81 (37 percent) overall. In the second half, they were 12-for-41 (29.3 percent), had only four assists and were outscored by 20.
"It's just tough,'' Derek Fisher said. "The momentum changes and the game is getting away from you a little bit . . . to revert to some of our old habits, that happens sometimes with us.''
Fisher pulled most of his starters with 2:40 left and the Knicks down 13. They play again Wednesday night at Detroit, so Fisher probably wanted to give them a little rest. But the Knicks just didn't have the same effectiveness or intensity on either end as they had in the previous two games.
Iman Shumpert led them with 19 points. Carmelo Anthony had 18, but shot only 8-for-23 and turned the ball over seven times. They were the only Knicks in double figures. Amar'e Stoudemire grabbed 12 rebounds.
"Anytime you don't make shots, you're not scoring the basketball, it makes it hard, it makes it strenuous,'' Anthony said. "And then the opposing team is denying, taking away a lot of your options. It can get frustrating at times.''
Paul Pierce and Garrett Temple each scored 17 for the Wizards, who had six players in double digits. Wall had 11 points and seven assists.
The third quarter was the Knicks' undoing. After leading by nine in the second quarter, the Knicks were outscored 32-15 in the third. "They wanted it more than we did at the start of the third quarter,'' Fisher said.
Instead of sharing the ball the way they did in the first half, the Knicks played more one-on-one. They didn't have a single assist in the third and missed 10 consecutive shots during a 5:42 stretch. They were outscored 14-0 and fell behind 70-56.
"The toughest part of this early on, when you're still trying to figure out who you are within what we do, is to still trust it and have faith that things will work out without reverting back to what you normally do in these situations,'' Fisher said. "That's tough for guys to do, when the game is getting away from you.
"The feeling for each guy is I can do it, I can help us get this back. It's actually the reverse. We have to stay together even more.''
The Knicks had some life early in the fourth. They made four of their first five shots, including three three-pointers, and cut the deficit to 77-71. But they drew no closer.
A Pierce three gave the Wizards an 86-75 lead with 5:11 to go. Trailing 90-77 with 2:41 left, Fisher called timeout and pulled Anthony, Stoudemire and Shumpert.
"As players, when you see something that's not working at the time, your first instinct is to use another option,'' Anthony said. "Whether that option is to break out of the system, the offense, sometimes it works and sometimes it don't. Tonight was one of those nights it didn't work.''