New York Knicks: Comeback falls short in Courtney Lee’s return

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Saturday’s overtime thriller was maybe the highlight of the New York Knicks season, but Monday’s follow-up proved opposite.

The New York Knicks had lost eight consecutive games to the Washington Wizards at home, with an even worse record overall. For some reason, they haven’t found even marginal success against this John WallBradley Beal squad for the past five years, and that didn’t change Monday.

For a time, it was New York’s game. They had a nine-point lead at halftime, and everything trended in their direction, on 50-plus percent shooting.

Amid this, Courtney Lee, who’s future went in the air with an article from The New York Postmade his long-awaited return to the court. Missing the past two months with a neck injury, rust was apparent at times, including not taking a shot until the fourth quarter and missing an easy breakaway layup.

However, head coach David Fizdale had Lee in at crunch time. A head-turner for someone that only made his season debut, but it’s still a veteran presence to hold this unit together, and last checked, he actually had a good two-year stint with the Knicks: 11.4 points, 45.5 percent shooting and 40.4 percent on three-pointers.

Lee’s 33-years-old, owns the third-highest salary on the Knicks ($12.75 million), and may overtake someone’s rotation spot once Trey Burke returns. Not a terrific combination, but if the organization plans on trading him before the season ends, he needs to play, especially if it increases their slim chances of not including an asset to remove his contract via trade.

1-for-4 shooting for seven points won’t thrill Knicks fans, but it’s step one towards his return to game form and step one in the trade process; even if this lasts past the trade deadline and lingers before July 1, there’s much that must happen before working a trade.

As for the rest of the game, the Knicks went on a 12-0 run in the final two minutes to draw within three. It seemed like a fast-forwarded version of their comeback against the Milwaukee Bucks, but a dagger three-pointer from John Wall erased those hopes and gave the Wizards a 110-107 win. (Give a hat tip to Damyean Dotson‘s three-pointer with 0.3 seconds left to make it a one-possession loss.)

  • Frank Ntilikina was a non-factor, again, but also, one of the night’s main stories, again. Fizdale kept him on the bench for the second consecutive game.
  • Whether or not Ntilikina has warranted playing time is a separate storyline, but if Trey Burke’s injury is short-term, and with Lee’s return, who does the Frenchman knock out of the rotation? There’s no one apparent, for now, and it may take a trade of someone on the roster — not to say Ntilikina would be the guy — to provide clarity.
  • Enes Kanter delivered a relatively quiet 13 points and 16 rebounds. He played in 25 minutes.
  • Damyean Dotson had yet another big scoring night, with 17 points and nine rebounds in 24 minutes. The bench move boosted his game and Burke’s performance, so can it do the same for Ntilikina?
  • Emmanuel Mudiay had a difficult night to start, as Otto Porter Jr. stole or blocked three of his possessions early. Though the revitalized 22-year-old still finished with 16 points.

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The New York Knicks have almost 72 hours to let this game sit, before driving up to face the Boston Celtics on Thursday, Dec. 6 at 8:00 p.m. ET.