Knicked in New York

Pistons can’t keep up with New York’s torrid scoring pace in matinee loss

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

TEAM COLORS

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

White Hot – Carmelo Anthony made his first six shots – three of them from behind the 3-point line and none of them easy chances – and didn’t cool off much after that. He finished the first quarter with 15 points and the game with 29 in 32 minutes as the New York Knicks built a 20-point halftime lead and withstood a Pistons third-quarter rally that saw them cut 12 points off the deficit. The Knicks finished the first half on a 26-10 spurt featuring a barrage of 3-pointers and layups as Detroit’s defense collapsed. The Knicks scored 32 points in each of the first two quarters and 35 in the fourth. Steve Novak hit a number of big triples, especially in the second half to blunt Pistons momentum, and finished with 18.

BLUE COLLAR – Brandon Knight made big shots down the stretch of Friday’s win over Toronto, including the game winner, and his strong play carried over to Sunday’s matinee at Madison Square Garden. Knight put up 21 points, matching his season’s best, and was particularly effective and efficient when penetrating the paint. He made 8 of 13 shots, 3 of 5 from the 3-point line, and had five assists against just two turnovers.

RED FLAG – The Pistons weathered Carmelo Anthony’s early barrage as well as could be expected. They were down by seven points and holding the ball for a last shot of the first quarter when Argentinian rookie Pablo Prigioni stole an inbounds pass intended for Will Bynum from Rodney Stuckey, converting it into a layup and a three-point play when the chasing Bynum fouled him. Instead of getting out of the quarter trailing by five, or perhaps four, points the Pistons were suddenly behind by 10. It was the type of error the Pistons simply couldn’t afford on a day the Knicks were as razor sharp offensively as they were, especially doing damage from the 3-point line where they made 17 of 33.

For the first 17 minutes, the Pistons reduced the Knicks to a jump-shooting team. They shot those jumpers with frightening efficiency, scoring 32 points in the first quarter to take a 10-point lead. If only the Pistons had continued to force contested jump shots, it might have turned out differently on a Sunday afternoon on basketball’s grandest stage, Madison Square Garden.

Within four points seven minutes before halftime, the Pistons saw their defense disintegrate. Over the final 13 possessions of the first half, with the Pistons misfiring or turning the ball over as their offense stagnated, the Knicks scored on all but two trips – one turnover and one missed shot. Except for a last shot of the half missed by Anthony, the Knicks scored 17 points on their final seven possessions – three wide-open triples, three layups among them.

“How many minutes of defense did we play? I don’t know,” Lawrence Frank said, “but I know it’s not nearly good enough.”

Anthony was unguardable in the early going, raining threes from well beyond the arc. Among his 29 points, Anthony hit 4 of 5 from behind the 3-point line. He had plenty of co-stars on offense for the Knicks, who gored the Pistons from the 3-point line.

“They scored 84 points on jump shots,” Frank said. “There were times we were there, but we don’t close out hard enough. Those are what we call ‘dare’ shots.”

On a day the Pistons doubled their season average of 4.7 made triples a game and shot them with accuracy – the Pistons made nine, a season high, on 20 tries – the Knicks outscored them by 24 from the arc, hitting on 17 of 33.

The Pistons played well enough on the offensive end – aside from the critical stretch to end the first half – to win on most nights if you could ignore the 20 turnovers the Knicks turned into 33 points. Brandon Knight was particularly good, scoring both from the outside – he made 3 of 5 from the arc – and the inside on a series of artfully executed drives and strong finishes. Knight also contributed very little to the rash of turnovers, committing just two.

Andre Drummond gave Frank further confidence to keep expanding his role, making an impact on the defensive end when he came on late in the first quarter. Drummond grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots in a solid 19-minute run. The other rookie who’s become a mainstay, Kyle Singler, also had a strong outing, scoring 16 points and shooting 5 of 7.

The rotation wrinkle for the game involved Charlie Villanueva’s emergence as the backup to Jason Maxiell at power forward, supplanting Jonas Jerebko.

“As we talked about when we made the decision with (Jason Maxiell) and Jonas being the two guys (to crack the rotation among the four power forwards on the roster), it’s very, very close,” Frank said. “I thought Charlie did well, but we got drilled by 20. He made some shots, did some good things. It’s not a question of whether Charlie is a good player, but you can only play so many guys. Now that we’re playing with Greg (Monroe) and Andre together, people get squeezed. Good players get squeezed. On our team, we have a lot of guys with similar ability – different skill sets, but similar ability.”

Villanueva scored 17 points, hitting 3 of 7 from the 3-point line, an area where he has the stuff to give the Pistons an offensive boost if he can defend and rebound adequately.

“You just have to be ready,” he said. “You never know when your name is going to be called. It took me a little bit to get into rhythm, the flow of things, but once I hit a couple of shots I found my rhythm. I’m just going to be ready, just make the most of any opportunity that’s given to me and put this game behind me.”

The Pistons played their best basketball to start the third quarter, when they whittled 12 points off a 20-point deficit. Unsurprisingly, the turnaround was launched on the defensive end, the Pistons holding the Knicks to 3 of 17 to start the half. A few big triples from Steve Novak – who scored all five of his baskets from the 3-point line in just seven attempts – stalled their momentum, though, and the Knicks kept pouring it on with a 35-point fourth quarter.