WASHINGTON, D.C. — It is difficult to determine the Knicks' worst loss this season. Some have been gruesome enough to cost a coach his job, including one deficit topping 40 points. But a case certainly can be made for Monday’s 121-115 loss to the Wizards at Madison Square Garden.
Washington arrived with a roster stripped of eight players and filled with stopgap fill-ins fresh from the G League. The Knicks’ loss did not match some other defeats as far as score differential, but it still was notable for its Washington Generals-like upset of the Harlem Globetrotters.
After the appropriate griping — pointing fingers in their own faces — the Knicks recovered and beat the Nets, 94-82, in Brooklyn on Thursday, a suitable palate cleanser for Saturday’s rematch with the Wizards.
And Washington might be even less representative of an NBA team for this one; Bradley Beal is listed as questionable with a lower leg injury suffered in a 30-point loss in Detroit on Thursday.
“Every game is important,” Julius Randle said after the Knicks’ practice at Georgetown University on Friday. “That’s just my mindset. I’m not going to make one game bigger than the other. Every game is important and it’s about us building the right habits daily. That’s what we need to do. We need to come in and take them seriously like we do every opponent and build the right habits. The only thing that matters is the win.
“It’s the great thing about the NBA. You get another opportunity to bounce back. We came out with the right focus and sharpness and we got a good win.”
The Knicks beat the Nets with either a tremendous defensive effort or by taking advantage of a squad still feeling the effects of too much Christmas cheer. They held the Nets to 26.9% shooting, the worst performance in the NBA this season, and eight two-point field goals, one fewer than Randle had by himself.
If the loss to Washington served as a wake-up call, the Knicks insisted they weren’t about to look at it as anything but a challenge after what happened Monday.
“I think that’s the reason you prepare the same way,” interim coach Mike Miller said. “These guys all have NBA contracts for a reason. We’ve seen guys play well. Guys have been successful. It doesn’t matter who it is. If they’re playing a guy who is in their second unit who now is starting, it’s an opportunity. These players are very smart. They know what these opportunities are. So as a team, we have to prepare the same way. We’re getting ready to play Washington.
“We cover every player that is potentially going to play in that game. We’ll go 12 deep with who we talk about, what they do well. And the biggest thing is teams are going to stick pretty much to what they do. All the players there fit into what they do. So there’s a purpose to it.”
Notes & quotes: Knicks icon and current Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing visited with the team during practice . . . There is no timetable for the return of Dennis Smith Jr. (strained oblique) . . . Mitchell Robinson said he hopes to play Saturday but was limited to stationary shooting Friday because of a sprained left big toe. “When I did it at practice, it wasn’t as bad,” he said. “It’s something I could deal with. [Thursday] I jammed it again and it stiffened up . . . I rested it today and iced it and hopefully it will be better tomorrow and go from there.”