They trailed the , a team with no victories and even less chemistry, by double digits. Their starting backcourt was in disarray. A bad week was about to get profoundly worse.
But seized the moment, Amar’e Stoudemire asserted himself and Iman Shumpert forced his way into prominence as the Knicks rallied for to avert humiliation.
Anthony led the way with 37 points and sealed the victory with a late 3-pointer, despite tweaking his back minutes earlier. John Wall and Nick Young missed 3-pointers in the final seconds, and the Knicks (3-4) escaped.
Washington built a 16-point lead in the first quarter and rallied from 8 points down in the fourth but fell to 0-7 — the only team in the N.B.A. without a win. Losing here would have been devastating for the Knicks, who were reeling after consecutive losses to Toronto and Charlotte. Winning provided a small measure of relief before they headed to Detroit.
“We’re a long ways from being very good,” Coach said. “But we have the spirit and we are fighting, so that’s good.”
The comeback was spearheaded primarily by Anthony and Stoudemire, who found his way back to the rim and finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Tyson Chandler added 12 points and 15 rebounds, completing a dominant night from the frontcourt.
But the intrigue was in the backcourt, where Shumpert — the frenetic rookie with a preternatural confidence — supplanted Toney Douglas to start the second half. Shumpert had 10 points — 6 in the fourth quarter — plus a team-high 7 assists and 5 steals. He brought more energy and production than Douglas, who played only 1 minute 31 seconds in the second half.
Now D’Antoni has a decision to make. He considered starting Shumpert on Friday, for Landry Fields, but he held off, opting for continuity over experimentation. But Shumpert is forcing the issue, having outshined the Knicks’ starting guards in two straight games. He could start on Saturday against the Pistons.
“I still want to think about it, look at it,” D’Antoni said. “We definitely don’t want to lose Toney, but we’ll do what we have to do.”
Shumpert said he was fine in either role. Douglas said the same, but his confidence seems to be waning, along with his effectiveness. Douglas missed all five of his shots and finished with no points, no assists and three turnovers in 11:35. He was also repeatedly beaten to the basket by Wall (22 points).
“I wasn’t in tune tonight,” Douglas said. “It happens.”
Douglas had surgery on his right shoulder in the off-season, but he dismissed any suggestion that it was affecting him.
“I’m going to bounce back,” he said. “That’s how I am.”
Mike Bibby, who is battling back and foot injuries, had his best game as a Knick, scoring 11 points, all in the second half. He hit consecutive 3-pointers to close the third quarter and another early in the fourth, pushing the Knicks to a 7-point lead.
Anthony took over from there, scoring 10 points in the final 5:22, despite straining his lower back during that stretch. But the Wizards erased an 8-point deficit, taking a 96-95 lead on Wall’s driving layup with 47.4 seconds left.
Anthony had one shot blocked and missed two midrange jumpers before the ball found him once more at the 3-point arc, with less than 20 seconds to go. He said he had no thought of trying to drive, because of the pain.
“I was hurting,” he said. “I was just praying that it went in.”
The 3-pointer swished with 15.5 seconds left, securing the victory. Shumpert padded it by making 1 of 2 free throws with 3.7 seconds left. His performance was not perfect, but he is showing the confidence to thrive in the N.B.A.
“I don’t have a reason to be nervous,” he said. “It’s just basketball. I’ve been wanting to be in the N.B.A. all my life, and now I’m here. I don’t see a point in being nervous.”
This was a night of survival more than anything. The Wizards, who have already had a players-only meeting and battled internal controversy, played with purpose and seemed to shock the Knicks with their energy. They opened with their best quarter of the season, taking a 32-18 lead.
Wall and Young, the starting guards, combined for a quick 22 points against the Knicks’ listless backcourt, and D’Antoni pulled Douglas and Fields less than six minutes after tip-off.
The Knicks’ ills were voluminous and widespread. Stoudemire committed turnovers the first two times he touched the ball. Anthony missed a layup and had another blocked by JaVale McGee. Chandler missed two free throws.
So there are kinks to be worked out, if the Knicks can maintain their focus and patience.
“We’ll be all right,” said Bibby, the Knicks’ elder statesman at 33. “It’s a long season. We got 58 games. Everybody wants it done today. It’s not going to happen today.”