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NBA | New York Knicks vs Washington Wizards | 25 February, 8:00 AM (PST)

Mary C

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Both the Washington Wizards and the New York Knicks overcame a slow start to enter the All-Star break in the thick of the playoff race. The Wizards bounced back to enter the race for one of the four play-in spots, while the Knicks recovered sufficiently to move into the top six of the Eastern Conference. When the Knicks visit the Wizards on Friday night, both teams will continue their push for the playoffs. New York had 33 victories through its first 60 games entering the break. The Knicks have gone 23-14 since December 3 and entered the break in sixth place, one game ahead of the Miami Heat. 

Jalen Brunson, a guard for New York, told reporters, "We're excited to kind of get down (to) this last stretch of games. New York entered the break with three straight victories over the Utah Jazz, Brooklyn Nets, and Atlanta Hawks by scoring at least 120 points in each game. "I think we just gotta get back to being focused. We had a great break. Everyone looks rested." The Knicks scored 120 points in three straight games for the second time this season. Brunson, who has been scoring 31.9 points per game over his last seven games, was a big part of New York's strong final stretch before the break. In New York's final game before the break, a 122-101 victory at Atlanta on February 15, Brunson scored 28 points. 

In its fourth game since acquiring Josh Hart via a trade with Portland at the deadline, New York will take the field. In his first three games with the Knicks, Hart has 51 points and 9 of 14 three-pointers made. The starting center Mitchell Robinson, who has missed 14 games due to a right thumb injury that required surgery, might also return for the Knicks. Robinson has resumed full contact practice after suffering an injury in the opening frame of a defeat to Washington on January 18. 

The Wizards' early struggles were more prolonged than those of the Knicks, but they are currently attempting to pull themselves out of a play-in race. Between November 30 and December, the Wizards lost 10 games. 18 to drop to 11-20, but they have since improved to 17-10. Washington is 10-4 since its victory in New York on January 18, moving up from 12th to ninth in the process. Coach Wes Unseld Jr. is eager to see if his team can nudge into the top six with 14 home games left. 

We've discussed (gaining ground), and it's definitely doable, Unseld said. The Wizards pulled off an impressive comeback heading into the break. "We have a home-heavy schedule coming out of the break. It's a great opportunity. Very easily could be in a different situation. Four-, five-game swing, you're in sixth. So, it's certainly feasible." They defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves on February 16 by a score of 114-106 after coming back from a 20-point deficit and scoring 38 points in the final frame. For the third time in four games, Bradley Beal scored at least 30 points, scoring 13 of his season-high 35 points in the final four or more minutes. Beal, who has missed 22 games so far this season, has missed just two games in his last five, scoring 27.2 points on average. 

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