LONDON — It was a foreign land for the Knicks, but all of the familiar markings were in place. The language was basically the same, if the accent and phrasing were slightly different. And building a lead and then watching it disappear made it feel very much like home.
After going ahead by 19 points in the second quarter, controlling the game for much of the night and seemingly surviving a late collapse, the Knicks held a one-point lead as the clock ticked down toward the final second. The Wizards' Thomas Bryant rolled to the rim, took a pass from Bradley Beal and tossed up a shot near the rim over Allonzo Trier and Emmanuel Mudiay that a leaping Trier swatted above the rim. But before the Knicks could celebrate what they hoped was a game-saving block, the officials quickly ruled it goaltending with four-tenths of a second left, giving Washington a 101-100 win.
The Knicks had a final shot as Kevin Knox inbounded to Mudiay, who flipped up a turnaround shot at the left elbow that never reached the rim. The loss was the Knicks' fifth straight, 13th in the last 14 games and 18th in the last 20, dropping them to 10-34.
“I thought I blocked it,” Trier said, adding that when he saw the replay, “I even more thought I blocked it. The refs made their call. It is what it is.
“It was either let him lay it up or try to go make a play on the ball. I tried to go make a play on the ball and help us, save us from losing the game.”
“I thought Zo made a heck of a play,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “But we had a breakdown in coverage. it was supposed to be a switch and we didn’t switch and we paid for it.”
The Wizards put the ball in the hands of Beal (26 points) and Noah Vonleh quickly moved to switch on to him, but Tim Hardaway Jr. was supposed to switch on to Bryant and instead let him take a free run into the lane.
“Tim kept coming. I don’t know if he was locked into Beal and just thinking Beal, Beal, but Tim needed to switch that,” Fizdale said. “Even with that happening, it shouldn’t have changed our weak-side help. Emmanuel was on the weak side of that. Zo came on the strong side and made an incredible attempt at the block. What I saw on the film was the ball just ticked one tick down. It was almost a game-winning game-saving block. That he didn’t give up on the play says a lot about the kid.”
The Knicks brought an 89-77 lead into the fourth quarter but were outscored 17-2 in the first 8:45 of the period as the Wizards took a 94-91 lead. After Vonleh put them in front 100-99 with a short hook shot in the lane with 33.7 seconds left, a miss by Washington gave the Knicks a chance to put the game away. But Mudiay, who had carried them much of the game, lost control of the ball, slipping as the team was dribbling the clock down. Knox ran it down and forced up a wild shot that resulted in a 24-second violation. That gave Washington one more chance with three seconds left.
While the game was a Wizards home game on the schedule, a pro-Knicks contingent filled much of the sellout crowd of 19,078 at O2 Arena. Every Knicks basket drew huge applause from the crowd, particularly on the rare occasions that the points came from European players Frank Ntilikina or Mario Hezonja.
The closest to an overseas star for the Knicks on this night came in the form of Mudiay, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo before his family escaped to America when he was a small child. Mudiay hit nine of his first 10 shots from the field, finished 11-for-18 and scored 25 points.
The Knicks led nearly the entire game, building a 10-point lead after a quarter and stretching it to 53-34 before settling for a 63-53 halftime advantage. Much of the early damage was done by Luke Kornet, who hit four three-pointers and scored 12 points in the first quarter, and Damyean Dotson, who hit his first five field-goal attempts.
They also got Mitchell Robinson back for the first time in more than a month and he showed no signs of lingering injuries, dunking 31 seconds into his entrance into the game and later swatting Chasson Randle's shot shot and dunking again on the other end.