(Photo credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
The New York Knicks have found a winning groove since their last appearance in the NBA's in-season tournament.
But the Washington Wizards will return to the in-season tournament battling the same malaise in which they've been mired all season.
The Knicks and Wizards are slated to resume GroupB play in the in-season tournament Friday night, when New York visits Washington in a battle of longtime rivals.
Both teams were off Thursday after playing Wednesday night, when the visiting Knicks mounted a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Atlanta Hawks 116-114 and the host Wizards fell to the Dallas Mavericks 130-117.
The Knicks are 0-1 in Group B play while the Wizards are 0-2. New York lost to Milwaukee Bucks 110-105 on Nov. 3, while Washington suffered a pair of seven-point losses to the Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets. The Heat earned a 121-114 win on Nov. 3 while the Hornets recorded a 124-117 win on Nov. 10.
The win on Wednesday both continued a surge for the Knicks, who have won four of five since falling to the Bucks, and represented a bounce-back from Monday night's 114-98 loss to the Boston Celtics.
After convincing wins over the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs and the Hornets, the Knicks were outscored 62-45 in the second half Monday at Boston, including 30-22 in the fourth quarter.
But despite losing shooting guard Quentin Grimes to a bruised left hand a minute into the fourth quarter Wednesday at Atlanta, New York survived a slow start to the final period, when it was outscored 20-7 over the first six-plus minutes before ending the game on a 22-13 run.
Immanuel Quickley (10 points) and Jalen Brunson (eight points) provided most of the offense during the decisive spurt. Julius Randle's jumper with 43 seconds left put the Knicks ahead for good at 112-110.
"Stayed poised, stayed confident in each other, had each other's back and found a way to win," Brunson said.
A solid final few minutes against the Mavericks on Wednesday wasn't nearly enough for the Wizards, who have lost four straight to fall to 2-9. Washington is tied with the Memphis Grizzlies for the second-worst record in the NBA, ahead of only the Detroit Pistons (2-10). Washington is allowing 123.2 points per game, third-most behind the Spurs and Indiana Pacers.
The Wizards trailed 41-26 after the first quarter Wednesday and never got closer than 12 the rest of the way. They were down by as many as 27 in the fourth quarter before ending the game on a 23-9 run.
The Wizards' previous three losses came by a combined 19 points to the Hornets, Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors.
"Look at quarters two, three and four, we were plus-2 (point differential)," Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. "So the first quarter's kind of what did us in. That's not a silver lining, those are the numbers."
--Field Level Media