As much as any team in the NBA, the Knicks have reason to be frustrated. But on Thursday they saw a flash of anger short-circuit a tentative rally in what became a 102-91 loss to the Wizards at the Garden.

The Knicks had cut a 22-point deficit to 11 when Quincy Acy sought to stop yet another drive by the Wizards' John Wall by leveling him with arms raised to Wall's face with 5:31 left.

Wall reacted by getting up and shoving Acy, who in turn appeared poised to take a swing at him with his right arm but instead wrapped it around Wall's head and neck before the two were pried apart.

The Knicks got one technical free throw to make it 91-81. But Acy had been ejected for a Flagrant Type 2 foul, so Wall made two free throws, the Wizards kept possession and Rasual Butler made a three-pointer to pretty much seal it.

Acy later denied having done anything wrong. "I mean, it was just a foul and he got up and reacted,'' he said.

Asked if he fears further repercussions from the NBA, he said, "I hope not. I mean, what was done wrong? . . . It was just a foul. If somebody has a fast break and you step in front of them and grab them, it's the same concept.

"Pablo [Prigioni] had fallen, so I stepped up, stepped in front and just stopped the break. I guess he didn't like it.''

Acy denied attempting to throw a punch, saying, "I got up and reacted and just grabbed him.''

Did Wall think Acy threw a punch? "I don't know; I ducked," he said.

Wall said he merely was running downcourt, expecting "a regular foul.'' No such luck. "I'm just a feisty guy that likes to compete,'' Wall said.

Knicks coach Derek Fisher did not find fault with Acy, saying, "It was an aggressive exchange. I don't think that's a situation where we need to explain to Quincy that he shouldn't do that again.''

Initially, the Wizards' Nene and Kris Humphries took the lead in breaking it up. The Knicks' Carmelo Anthony later escorted Acy away from trouble but said he intentionally avoided joining the fray.

"Any time you run into a large group of people, something can happen,'' Anthony said. "I wasn't going to allow myself to run into a group of people . . . I'd rather just get Quincy out of there and walk away.''

Said Amar'e Stoudemire: "It was an accumulation of frustration. It builds up to where we're trying to win and we're sick of losing, so that happens sometimes.''

Notes & quotes: J.R. Smith sat out again because of a foot injury . . . The Knicks fell to 22-28 on Christmas. Their 50 games on the holiday are the most of any NBA team . . . The Wizards' Paul Pierce was booed every time he touched the ball . . . The teams wore special Christmas Day uniforms that featured their first names rather than their last.