Wizards, Knicks meet in holiday matinee

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Washington Wizards have lost two games in a row for the second time this season, but they'll try to break out of it Thursday when they face the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

The leadoff game on the NBA's Christmas schedule features two teams on losing streaks. The Knicks have dropped five in a row, but the Wizards need a victory after consecutive home losses.

The Wizards fell to third in the Eastern Conference and lost the lead in the Southeast Division for the first time all season. The Atlanta Hawks have been on fire since Thanksgiving, but Washington was able to keep pace until recently.

After a loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday, the Wizards fell to the Chicago Bulls, 99-91, Tuesday night.

Washington lost its second straight game on the heels of six consecutive wins despite John Wall's 18 points and nine assists. Marcin Gortat posted a 14- point, 11-rebound double-double in defeat.

"They made plays," said Wall. "I think they outrebounded us and got to the free throw line more."

After Nene hit two free throws to pull Washington within three early in the fourth, Chicago rattled off seven straight to force a timeout. It was 86-75 midway through the period when Wall and the Wizards mounted their comeback.

Wall did most of his work in transition and scored 10 of Washington's 12 straight points that gave the hosts their first lead since the first quarter.

Jimmy Butler stopped the flurry with a pair of free throws. Derrick Rose then took the game into his own hands, scoring six in a row. His tip-in preceded a pair of Pau Gasol free throws that put the game out of reach.

Bradley Beal finished with 15, followed by 12 out of Paul Pierce.

The Knicks have dropped 15 of their last 16. Their only victory since Nov. 24 was a road win over the Boston Celtics on Dec. 12. New York has lost seven straight at MSG.

The most recent setback came Sunday at Toronto, 118-108, to the Raptors.

Carmelo Anthony ended with 28 points for the Knicks. Jason Smith and Jose Calderon contributed 16 and 15 points, respectively, with Calderon also dishing out 10 assists.

"They scored and they scored super-fast," said Anthony. "They exploited a lot of things."

Amare Stoudemire (rest), Iman Shumpert (shoulder) and J.R. Smith (foot) missed the Raptors game. Stoudemire should be a go on Thursday, but Smith, who has sat out the last seven for New York with a small tear in his plantar fascia, is questionable. Shumpert is out with a dislocated shoulder.

The Wizards bested the Knicks by 15 at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 4. That made it four in a row in the series for Washington, which has won three straight in New York City.