NEW YORK (AP) — Bradley Beal made his first shot to give Washington a lead it never gave up.
With their leading scorer back, the Wizards finally got their starting lineup together again and couldn’t have asked for a better reunion.
“We get to see what we’re like as a whole,” Beal said, “and if we continue to compete like that we’ll be pretty good.”
Kyle Kuzma scored 27 points, Beal had 18 in his return from a five-game absence and the Wizards never trailed in a 116-105 victory over the New York Knicks on Wednesday night.
Kristaps Porzingis had 22 points, 11 rebounds and five assists against his former team, helping the Wizards get off a fast start and play from ahead all night. Kuzma, who scored a season-high 40 points in a loss to the Knicks last Friday, had 13 rebounds and seven assists.
Kuzma didn’t need to score as much this time thanks to the return of Beal, Washington’s leading scorer who shot 7 for 11 after being sidelined by a strained left hamstring. The Wizards went 1-4 without him and had dropped two in a row.
Beal made his first shot to send Washington to a 7-0 lead that quickly grew to 14-3 and later 19-5. Porzingis hit two 3-pointers and scored eight points in the early flurry.
“It was a good sign those guys could kind of put it together,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “It seemed like the chemistry hasn’t changed at all in Brad’s absence.”
Jalen Brunson scored 32 points and RJ Barrett 21 had for the Knicks, who have lost two straight home games to teams behind them in the standings this week after a stretch of seven wins in eight games.
“They had guys coming back into the lineup tonight, so they were amped up to play and they played great,” Barrett said.
Immanuel Quickley added 18 points and Julius Randle had 14 points and 15 rebounds, but he shot 6 for 17 and most of his makes came with the game out of reach.
Starting center Mitchell Robinson played just nine minutes before leaving with a sprained right thumb.
“You miss who he is obviously, but that’s part of it,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “But overall we didn’t play well.”
It was 43-28 in the second quarter after eight straight points from Deni Avdija before the Knicks trimmed it to 56-48 at halftime.
The Knicks got it down to 95-88 on Quickley’s 3-pointer with 9:04 remaining, but Washington answered with 10 in a row, with Kuzma scoring four straight before Beal’s basket made it 105-88 as the Wizards matched their biggest lead.
Brunson scored 16 points in the third quarter, but the rest of the Knicks shot 5 for 15 as Washington nudged its lead up to 88-78.
Wizards: Beal played 29 minutes. Unseld said before the game the Wizards would be careful not to tax their leading scorer too much right away, given his previous hamstring problems this season. … Avdija scored 14 points.
Knicks: Thibodeau didn’t disagree with the NBA’s determination that Barrett wasn’t fouled on his tying dunk with 0.6 seconds left in regulation of the Knicks’ loss to Toronto on Monday. The league, in its Last 2 Minutes report, said Scottie Barnes made contact with Barrett’s non-shooting arm, but not enough to affect the shot. Thibodeau said it’s a play where a foul is called perhaps half the time.
Kuzma announced Wednesday on ABC’s “GMA3” that he was donating $1 million to the YMCA in his home of Flint, Michigan.
The Knicks and JPMorgan Chase said they were making a second $100,000 donation to the Earl Monroe New Renaissance Basketball School in New York. The school, named after the Hall of Famer who played for the Knicks and Washington organizations, is the first public high school with an academic curriculum designed around basketball.
Wizards: Host Orlando on Saturday.
Knicks: At Atlanta on Friday.
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