The insult came quickly, a double-digit deficit taking just minutes to pile up with Kristaps Porzingis doing much of the damage shortly after the Madison Square Garden crowd had greeted the former Knicks star with resounding and loud boos during introductions. The injury came shortly after as Mitchell Robinson suffered a sprained right thumb, which could portend trouble for the Knicks beyond the disappointment of this night.
Just as Robinson was done for the night, so too were the Knicks, never able to overcome the early struggles as the Washington Wizards led wire-to-wire in a 116-105 defeat on Wednesday night. With the loss, the Knicks continue their strange home-court struggles, falling to 11-13 at the Garden after a pair of losses this week to teams trailing them in the standings. At least they head back on the road to face Atlanta and Toronto now.
“Yeah, we were playing from behind all night,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “That hurt us. They came out and they were making shots early. They got a lot of confidence from that. I thought they played really well. We missed shots. We couldn’t get our defense untracked.”
A big part of that defensive problem and the biggest question for the Knicks (25-21) is the status of Robinson, who played only nine minutes after suffering a sprained right thumb in the first quarter as he contested a Bradley Beal drive. Robinson missed the remainder of the game and will undergo additional tests Thursday.
But Robinson may not have made a difference on this night as the Wizards presented a far different threat than the lineup they put out when the Knicks beat them in Washington last week. With Bradley Beal and Monte Morris back after missing that game five days ago, Washington jumped out to a 14-3 lead — with eight of the points coming from Porzingis, who was 3-for-3, including a pair of three-point shots.
“It’s fun to play in the Garden,” Porzingis said. “In think it’s the best place to play basketball in the world. I miss this place a lot. Last few times I’ve been here, I’ve been booed, I’ve been receiving that kind of energy but I enjoy playing here. It’s good to leave here with a win.
“[The reaction] was better. It was less booing. And I think some fans are easing up on me on this point. I got a lot of support today. I saw kids with my jersey, trying to give me high-fives and tell me to come back to New York and it was cool to see some support again.”
That might have been as much a reflection on the play of the current Knicks roster Wednesday. On a night when Julius Randle struggled and finished with 14 points on 6-for-17 shooting, even Jalen Brunson’s latest heroics — this one a 32-point effort — weren’t enough. Porzingis finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots while Kyle Kuzma added 27 points and 13 rebounds.
“That’s not our type of basketball as far as defensively,” Randle said. “Just kind of letting them do whatever they wanted.”
The Wizards (19-26) seemed willing to squander the lead down the stretch. They missed 11 of 12 shots in a span of 88 seconds and Porzingis fouled out with 1:15 left, walking off to loud boos again and pointing to the crowd in mock appreciation.
“All the booing, I was just pointing at the score,” Porzingis explained, insisting that there were no hard feelings. “Just the way the trade happened. I did some dumb cryptic tweets and stuff. The whole process was just a mess. I didn’t like the way it ended. That wasn’t how I wanted it to end, if it did end. I tried to stay myself the whole time. Not do anything. Not say anything. If I did say anything, it would’ve been right after I was traded. Now it’s too late.
“Now I think fans are easing up on me and realizing it was what it was in that moment. I was young. I was traded. Of course, I was hurt. That’s why I put some dumb tweets out there. I think people are starting to forgive me now and we’re moving past that.”