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Washington Wizards top New York Knicks to tie for 3rd in Eastern Conference race

By Everett Merrill, The Sports Xchange
Washington Wizards top New York Knicks to tie for 3rd in Eastern Conference race
Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) scores on a jumpshot. File photo by Mark Goldman/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK -- John Wall thinks if the Washington Wizards want to make a deep run in the playoffs, they will have to ramp up their defense.

The Wizards moved into a tie for third place in the Eastern Conference with a 106-103 victory over the Knicks on Thursday, but allowed New York to get back into it in the fourth quarter. The Wizards led by as many 15 points in the third before Bradley Beal bailed them out down the stretch.

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A 9-0 run by the Knicks tied it at 97-97 with 2:50 to play. Carmelo Anthony tied it again at 101-101 with a jumper, but Beal scored Washington's last five points -- on a 3-pointer that made it 104-101 and two free throws.

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Anthony's 3-point attempt to tie it with 2.9 seconds left was long off the rim.

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"Our defense is terrible right now," Wall said. "If we think we're going to go to the playoffs with this defense, we'll have an early exit.

"We have to figure that out."

Washington (48-31) picked up a half-game on Toronto (48-31), which was off Thursday. Each team has three games left in the regular season.

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The Knicks (30-49) host Toronto on Sunday. The Wizards host Miami on Saturday.

Beal topped Washington with 25 points. Wall contributed 24 points and eight assists and Marcin Gortat recorded 16 points.

New York received 23 points from Anthony, 16 from Justin Holiday and 13 from Willy Hernangomez. Kristaps Porzingis was out with a sore lower back.

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The Knicks shot 9 of 22 in the third quarter and trailed 82-75 entering the fourth.

"I'm happy that our guys keep playing hard," said Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek. "They didn't quit. They have been playing like that all year long."

New York will miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.

A traditional three-point play from Gorat moved the Wizards lead to 71-56 with 7:05 left in the third. Wall spent most of the third on the bench as Washington maintained mostly a double-digit lead.

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He re-entered in the fourth, scoring seven crucial points in a row, giving his team a 101-97 lead.

"We wanted to just get stops," Wall said. "This team (Knicks) wasn't playing for much, but they played hard.

"They made us fight to the end in a game we needed. This team (Wizards) needs me to be a scorer and a facilitator. I just want to get my teammates involved."

A layup from Hernangomez whittled the Wizards lead to 51-48 with 2:17 left in the second, but Washington responded with an 8-3 run to take a 59-51 edge at the break.

Wall was perfect in the first quarter, going 4 for 4 and 2 for 2 from the line, helping the Wizards to a 33-27 lead.

NOTES: Washington is trying for its first 50-win season since 1978-79. ... The Wizards were without F Markieff Morris (sore ankle). ... The Wizards have defeated the Knicks six straight games. ... Washington became the 13th team since 1983-84 to make the playoffs after starting a season 2-8 or worse. ... Wizards G John Wall is the only player averaging at least 20 points, 10 assists, four rebounds and two steals. ... Washington's comeback win over Charlotte on Tuesday after being down 17 points, is the most points it has overcome in the last 20 seasons. ... The Knicks haven't won two straight games since Dec. 20-22. ... Knicks G Derrick Rose had surgery on Wednesday to repair a torn meniscus. He is expected to resume basketball activities in three to six weeks. ... Former Knicks G Brandon Jennings scored four points off Washington's bench in his first trip back to Madison Square Garden since signing with the Wizards in March.

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