Wizards quickly knocked out of in-season tournament with loss to Knicks

On the surface, it might have counted as a break for the struggling Washington Wizards and their beleaguered defense. Into town came the New York Knicks, down two backcourt starters and perhaps a bit vulnerable.

Jalen Brunson scored 32 points, Immanuel Quickley added 27 off the bench and Julius Randle had 22 points, seven rebounds and eight assists as the Knicks secured a 120-99 victory Friday night at Capital One Arena despite the absence of RJ Barrett and Quentin Grimes. Donte DiVincenzo made his first start of the season and had 12 of his 14 points in the first half.

Kyle Kuzma had a team-high 19 points and Deni Avdija had 18 on a 7-for-11 shooting night for Washington (2-10), which has dropped five in a row and is off to its worst start since it opened with 12 consecutive losses in 2012-13.

Washington was held to 15 points in the fourth quarter and yielded a 20-2 run over a stretch of a little more than seven minutes to fade after closing within 95-90.

“Just a couple tough offensive possessions, and then defensively we found ourselves out of position a couple times,” said guard Tyus Jones, who had 11 points and five assists. “That’s a playoff team. They’ll make you pay for [mistakes], and that’s what they did tonight.”

Jordan Poole, the Wizards’ second-leading scorer on the season, was held scoreless on four shots in the first half and finished with eight points.

“I need to find some ways to take some pressure off of him,” Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “They blitzed him a little bit tonight, and teams are real physical with him. To his credit, he keeps working. He puts a ton of work into his shot, so I think it’s just a matter of time.”

Jordan Poole sees the criticism. He says he isn’t worried about it.

It was the Wizards’ latest loss in the NBA’s in-season tournament, a first-year innovation that concludes Dec. 9 in Las Vegas. Each member of the winning team will receive $500,000, with $200,000 per player on the runner-up, $100,000 for players on teams that stumble in the semifinals and $50,000 for players on teams ousted in the quarterfinals.

Those payouts don’t matter at this point for Washington, which fell the previous two Fridays to Miami and Charlotte and was eliminated from title contention with Friday’s loss. The Wizards conclude group play Nov. 24 at Milwaukee.

Barrett missed his third consecutive game with a migraine, and Grimes sat with a sprained left wrist. Yet playing without the pair didn’t hinder New York in the early going — especially from the outside.

The Knicks (7-5) made four of their first six three-point attempts, while Washington started 1 for 7 overall with two turnovers. By the time Brunson connected on a long pull-up three to prompt the Wizards’ first timeout, New York led 16-4.

Washington had a few bursts throughout the first two quarters, but the Knicks’ perimeter proficiency — 9 for 16 from three before the break — helped build a 65-54 advantage at halftime.

The Wizards twice closed to within five in the opening minutes of the third quarter — once on a Poole layup, his first points of the game — only for Josh Hart and Brunson to drill back-to-back threes to restore a double-digit advantage.

There were similar mini-spurts as the half unfolded, and Washington was down only five at the start of the fourth quarter. The Wizards were within 97-90 with 8:33 left when Poole was called for a technical foul after a New York common foul. Brunson made the technical free throw, and Poole promptly traveled for the last of his five turnovers.

That miscue came early in a 13-possession stretch in which Washington mustered only a pair of Jones free throws. Even before the drought ended after Unseld pulled his starters, a robust “Let’s go Knicks” chant had broken out and was immediately rewarded with a Quickley three-pointer to make it 110-92.

“Some of it was you miss decent looks, and I think we got a little sideways with some non-calls,” Unseld said. “But we have to continue to play with that tempo. It takes a lot of starch out of you. You’re playing a very physical team, a very aggressive team. To play at that tempo late in the fourth quarter, I think that’s something we kind of look at. The sooner we can initiate the offense, the better.”

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