WASHINGTON -- After weeks of inconsistent performances, the Washington Wizards might finally be headed down a stable, winning path.
Entering their first meeting of the season with the New York Knicks, the Wizards are 7-3 over their last 10 games, a stretch that coincides with the return of four-time All-Star guard John Wall from a knee injury. Washington has won seven of eight at home and plays six of its next seven games at Capitol One Arena.
What has worked lately is not just about playing among fans and friends. It's about the Wizards improving their game in, game out habits.
Before Sunday's 114-110 victory over the Chicago Bulls, the Wizards were 9-10 against opponents under .500. The other teams with similar struggles are themselves at or near the NBA standings basement. Talk about unwanted company for a Washington team that entered the season believing it had the goods for a run to the Eastern Conference Finals and perhaps beyond.
Including Friday's victory over the Houston Rockets, the Wizards have won two in a row. More importantly, the consistent effort and focus needed for sustained success showed up.
"I think it's beyond important. Realizing that if we play this way, each and every game, we have a great chance of winning," leading scorer Bradley Beal said.
The Knicks (18-19) dropped below .500 with Tuesday's 100-91 home loss to the San Antonio Spurs. New York has lost five of six games and four of their last five road games.
Beal was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday. The wing guard averaged 26.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.5 steals while shooting 38.7 from 3-point range to lead Washington to a 3-1 record. Against the Bulls, Beal scored 17 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter, sank seven 3-pointers and finished one rebound and assist shy of a triple-double.
"I've been saying this -- going on the second year now -- that Brad's an All-Star," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he was an All-Star last year, he led us in a lot of different games and (averaged) 23 points. It's not just the 23 points, it's the defensive play that he does, it's the passing. We're very blessed, we have two guys in the backcourt that are All-Stars."
Wall also filled up the stat sheet against Chicago with 21 points, nine assists and four blocked shots. Mike Scott continued his scoring surge off the bench with 17 points.
New York led by nine in the first half, but fell back in the third quarter as San Antonio outscored the Knicks 29-18 for an 81-67 lead entering the final period. The entire starting lineup scored in double figures, but reserve Michael Beasley paced the Knicks with 18 points.
"They just played harder than us," Knicks center Enes Kanter said via Newsday. "We're younger than them but they just played harder than us. They played with more energy."
Krystaps Porzingis had 13 points on 5-of-19 shooting.
"It takes a lot of energy when you fight for position and you don't get the ball," Porzingis said. "It was a tough one."
New York puts in work on the boards, ranking among the league leaders in offensive rebounds and third in overall differential. Kanter averages 10.1 rebounds per game.