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Streaky Knicks battle Wizards for first time this season

Jan 11, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) dribbles up court during the fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks continue to ride the roller coaster, relieved to be on the way up again with five victories in six games after a late-December swoon.

The Knicks will look to continue in a positive direction Friday night, when they visit the Washington Wizards in the first game of the season between the longtime Eastern Conference rivals.

Both teams were off Thursday after fending off late comebacks to earn wins at home Wednesday night.

Jalen Brunson scored seven of his game-high 34 points in the final three minutes as the Knicks beat the Indiana Pacers, 119-113. Kyle Kuzma drained the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left for the Wizards, who edged the Chicago Bulls 100-97.

New York outlasted the Pacers two nights after its four-game winning streak ended with a 111-107 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Prior to this week, the Knicks hadn’t alternated a loss with a win since Nov. 27-29, when they fell to the Memphis Grizzlies before routing the Detroit Pistons 140-110.

The Knicks lost to the Bucks on Nov. 30 to begin a two-game losing streak, which was followed by an eight-game winning streak from Dec. 4-20. That was followed by the five-game losing streak before New York beat the Houston Rockets on Dec. 31 to start the latest surge.

The Knicks never trailed Wednesday and appeared well on their way to a win when they led by 25 points shortly before the midway point of the third quarter.

But the Pacers stormed back and got within 105-103 on Buddy Hield’s 3-pointer with 3:10 left in the game. Brunson responded with five straight points for New York, which iced the victory when Quentin Grimes sank a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left to extend the lead to 115-109.

“A win’s a win in this league,” Brunson said after the Knicks tied the Pacers for sixth place and the final guaranteed playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. “Especially (against) a team that we’re fighting for position with.”

The Wizards displayed some inconsistency but also some resolve in snapping a three-game losing streak.

Washington, playing without its top two leading scorers — Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis — due to injuries, trailed 59-46 at the half before outscoring the Bulls 41-21 in the third.

The teams combined for just 30 points in a grinding fourth quarter, when the Bulls got within three points four times before Zach LaVine drained a game-tying 3-pointer with 30 seconds remaining. But after a timeout, Kuzma sank his 3-pointer — the only 3 made in seven fourth-quarter attempts by the Wizards.

LaVine then missed a 16-footer and Deni Avdija grabbed the rebound for the Wizards, who out-rebounded the Bulls 15-10 in the fourth. The Wizards allowed just five second-chance points in the final period, including LaVine’s game-tying 3-pointer, which he hit after Chicago called timeout following an offensive rebound by Patrick Williams.

“That was the message — you can’t get outworked,” Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “We’re already undermanned. You can’t get outworked.”

–Field Level Media