A Step Back

Knicks roll over Pistons on strength of 16-0 2nd-quarter run

TEAM COLORS

The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

– The Knicks sizzled across the board during a 16-0 run in the second quarter that spanned just seven possessions in which they scored every time. Veteran guard Mike Bibby, limited to being pretty much a 3-point specialist these days, knocked down two triples – he was 4 of 4 from the arc in the second quarter alone – to lead the assault. But the Knicks also scored on dunks from Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, on a Stoudemire jump and an Anthony spinning move to the basket, and on a Landry Fields jump shot. The Pistons aided the run by turning the ball over twice – two of their 11 first-half turnovers. That enabled the Knicks to establish a 22-point halftime lead after leading by just one point after the first quarter in their 103-80 win over the Pistons at The Palace. After beating Indiana and Orlando in consecutive games at The Palace within the past week, this loss – their third straight – showed that getting to where Lawrence Frank wants to take them won’t be done without fits and starts.

BLUE COLLAR – Josh Harrellson was a college teammate of Brandon Knight’s at Kentucky a year ago. Unlike Knight, he wasn’t highly recruited, he didn’t come to the NBA after only one season and he wasn’t a lottery selection. Harrellson didn’t really play until his senior season at Kentucky, and only then because highly touted recruit Enes Kanter was ruled ineligible by the NCAA, but he became an iron man for the Wildcats and essential to their Final Four run. He was drafted 45th overall last June and is a key part of the rotation for New York, which had its depth decimated in recent seasons by gutting the roster to create cap space that resulted in the signing of Amare Stoudemire and then by the trade for Carmelo Anthony. Harrellson played 26 minutes against the Pistons and put up nice numbers with 11 points and seven rebounds.

RED FLAG – Since being outrebounded by 27 in their first two games of the season, the Pistons over their next five coming into Saturday’s game were plus-20. But the Knicks hurt them badly in the first half, when they built a 22-point lead, by outrebounding the Pistons 25-16. They did much of their work on the offensive end, grabbing nine of the 19 available boards on that side of the court. A season-long problem – turnovers – also was a major contributing factor to the halftime deficit. The Pistons, averaging 16 per game, coughed it up 11 times in the first half alone – eight in the second quarter, when the Knicks outscored them 39-18 – leading to 14 New York first-half points. The Pistons finished with 21 turnovers, which the Knicks converted into 23 points.

The progress Lawrence Frank intends to enter into evidence this season won’t be a straight-ahead, no-deviations process. After putting up back-to-back wins to close 2011 and open 2012, the Pistons backpedaled at The Palace on Saturday against a New York Knicks team that earlier in the week lost consecutive home games to Toronto and Charlotte.

The Pistons were outrebounded, careless with the ball and less than vigilant about protecting the paint – cardinal sins, all, in Frank’s basketball bible. The Knicks outscored them 39-18 in a particularly gruesome second quarter and rolled to a 103-80 win that gives the Pistons their second three-game losing streak of the season.

“This is going to be a series of one step forward, two steps back – or two steps forward, one step back,” Frank said. “This is not representative of who we want to be. We all have to own it, starting with me. This is going to be a long season and we have to figure out all the things that are going to be a part of the solution.”

The Pistons trailed by just a point after one quarter and took a three-point lead early in the second on a Ben Gordon 3-point shot. But with the Knicks ahead 39-35, they blew the game out in a mere 2:40 span by going on a 16-0 run that encompassed just seven possessions. Veteran guard Mike Bibby hit two of his four 3-pointers in four attempts for the quarter during that span, which also included a pair of baskets and a dunk apiece for Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire.

“This was a display of how we don’t want to play,” Jonas Jerebko said. “We’ve just got to come out better than that. They want that up-and-down game. We had a couple of turnovers, they had some easy buckets – a show of the kind of basketball we don’t want to play.”

Turnovers – the Pistons committed eight of them in the second quarter alone – and shoddy board work opened the door for the Knicks. They slammed it shut by carving the Pistons up inside. After taking a 22-point halftime lead, they came back and recorded four dunks and two more layups in the third quarter alone, expanding the lead to 29 at one point.

“It was 35-32 and once again, just come of our decision-making, our turnovers, shot selection, driving, overpenetrating, getting too deep in the paint,” Frank said. “Up to that point, we started to get a pretty good rhythm and then all the things we were doing well, we kind of reversed and did the opposite. All those miscues lead to threes. Just very, very disappointing.”

Stoudemire and Anthony, New York’s All-Star forwards, weren’t called on to play heavy minutes or carry the offense, but both stood out. Stoudemire had 22 points, eight boards and four assists; Anthony didn’t shoot well (5 of 14) but he had seven assists by the midway point of the third quarter.

Rookie Brandon Knight led the Pistons with 19 points, six boards, four assists and three steals. And while he continued to give the Pistons great encouragement for both his future and theirs, it was an up-and-down performance for him and another part of the learning process. Knight launched 13 3-point shots and didn’t get to the foul line.

“We just started making defensive mistakes, had a lot of lapses,” said Knight, who started again with Rodney Stuckey missing his second straight game with a groin strain and Austin Daye, who like Knight, sprained an ankle in Philadelphia on Friday night, also sitting out. “That was really a big part of it – just a lot of defensive mistakes and not really paying attention to the game plan.”

It doesn’t get any easier for the Pistons. After a travel day Sunday, they’ll play at Chicago on Monday and turn around Tuesday with a home game against the reigning NBA champion Dallas Mavericks – and they’ll have to do it all without any of the momentum they thought they’d accumulated in the wins over the Pacers and Magic.

“It’s very disappointing,” Jerebko said. “We know we can play so much better than this. We’ve just got to get back to it and go play Chicago.”