With his team falling further and further behind against the New York Knicks, Washington Wizards Coach Randy Wittman told his team everything was OK.
His faith was justified.
John Wall had 24 points and 10 assists, and the Wizards rallied from an 18-point, second-quarter deficit to beat the Knicks 99-89 on Saturday night for their fourth straight victory.
“When we were down 29-20, believe it or not, I told them, ‘We’re all right.’ They thought I was crazy but I really felt that way,” Wittman said. “I liked what we were doing and I liked the shots that we were getting.”
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It got worse before it got better, but eventually the shots began to fall and the Wizards tightened up their defense.
Marcin Gortat had 15 points and 11 rebounds, while Markieff Morris added 17 points as all five Washington starters scored in double figures.
“In the past if we were missing shots we would just give up in the game and not play defense,” Wall said. “We just kept talking and said we’ve got to keep competing, shots will fall later on.”
It was the largest comeback win of the season for the Wizards, who are 10th in the Eastern Conference, but just 1 1/2 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot.
Wall, seeking his third straight triple-double, fell short with two rebounds, but committed just one turnover after totaling 17 in his last two games.
Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 20 points apiece, but neither had an answer during New York’s 13-point third quarter.
“We couldn’t get into a rhythm. They did and we couldn’t stop them,” guard Jose Calderon said.
Anthony, who averaged 35 in the teams’ first two meetings, scored just 12 after the first quarter as Wittman turned to the 6-10 Morris to check him.
“Wanted to get more size on him, be a little physical with him and keep him away from the basket a little bit more,” said Morris, who was guarding Anthony for the first time.
Anthony was not available after the game. A Knicks spokesman said the forward was diagnosed with a migraine in the first quarter.
The Wizards’ winning streak — coming after a five-game skid — matches their season high. They are 9-1 in their last 10 home games.
Washington trailed 53-43 at halftime, but Gortat (13 second-half points) scored six points during a 9-0 run to open the third quarter.
With the Wizards trailing 60-54, Morris’ alley-oop dunk and Wall’s 3-pointer started a 20-3 run and Washington led 76-66 after three.
“They just started putting more pressure defensively on us,” Porzingis said. “We weren’t really able to execute that well. It was their defense. They raised their level.”
New York, which shot 30.7 percent in the second half, got within 89-85 on Anthony’s 3-pointer with 4:20 left, but the Wizards scored seven straight points.
The Knicks shot 58.3 percent (14 of 24) in the first quarter and led 46-28 with 4:44 left in the first half before Wall sparked a 12-2 run.