Long Way Home
“We came here to win a game, so it’s very, very disappointing,” Lawrence Frank said after the 102-87 loss. “I don’t want to say anything negative about the experience in regard to London, but when you lose a game, it’s negative. This is not a vacation. We’re not tourists. We came here to play a competition – not a performance, a competition, on an international stage, which is a privilege and an honor to be selected. So it’s disappointing that we came up short and didn’t play our best.”
The Pistons scored the game’s first two points, then surrendered 16 straight, 12 of them on four 3-pointers, two from Carmelo Anthony. It was particularly vexing that the Knicks did such damage early from the 3-point arc. The Pistons’ No. 1 defensive objective was to limit New York’s effectiveness from the arc. The Knicks lead the NBA in both 3-pointers made (11 per game) and attempted (29). And while their final numbers fell almost perfectly in line – 11 of 31 – it was the early carnage that defined the game.
“There were mistakes made, but when you’ve got three or four shooters on the floor at one time, they’re going to force you to make a mistake at some point,” Tayshaun Prince said. “And if you have Melo out there, who draws a lot of attention, there’s going to be mistakes made. You’ve just got to limit them as much as possible. Obviously, early on we didn’t do that. We gave a good effort in the third quarter, but when you’re down against a good team, you almost have to play perfect the rest of the game and we didn’t do that.”
“We knew we had to guard the line coming into the game,” Greg Monroe said. “We came out and had a few game-plan mistakes and they got off to the early lead and we couldn’t catch up. It’s tough. You’re playing hard, you’re going to make mistakes sometimes. They made a lot of shots tonight. Give credit to them. That’s all that happened. Guys were playing hard, they just made a lot of shots.”
Monroe’s night was the Pistons’ game in a nut shell. He couldn’t get anything to go right early on, finishing the first quarter with one point, no rebounds and two turnovers. But he finished strong with 11 points, 10 boards and five assists.
The Knicks took their biggest lead, at 20 points, midway through the second quarter. Rookie Andre Drummond – who matched Monroe’s double-double with 11 points, 10 boards, two steals and two blocked shots – helped stabilize the Pistons with nine points, five boards and two blocks in 10 first-half minutes, coming out after picking up his second foul.
It was a 15-point deficit at halftime when the Pistons put together their best stretch to start the third quarter, outscoring the Knicks 22-11 over nine minutes to get within 67-63, sparked by Will Bynum, who finished with 22 points.
But the Pistons didn’t score on their final five possessions of the quarter as the Knicks closed with an 8-0 run to again push the lead to a dozen headed to the fourth quarter.
“That did hurt us,” said Kyle Singler, another rookie who played well, scoring 15 points and making some big plays during the third-quarter rally. “We got back in the game. They’re a good team. They’re talented and we just could never get past them and they came back with another run toward the end.”
The Pistons had one more spurt in them, again led by Bynum, who played the final 19-plus minutes consecutively. His personal 7-0 run cut a 15-point deficit by more than half, but again the Knicks responded – 11-0, this time – to kill off any shot at a winning comeback.
The Pistons dismissed any excuses. They hadn’t played a game since Saturday, but Prince pointed out the Knicks had been off since Sunday. They were playing on a neutral court in a foreign country, but Monroe said the Knicks faced the same unique circumstances.
“At the end of the day, it was still a game,” Monroe said. “We were on a neutral court, that was about it. Us playing here in this arena, in London, didn’t have anything to do with how we played.”
Yet the start of the game was so one-sided – the Knicks led 13-3 in rebounding at one point, and while they were making their first six shots, the Pistons were missing their first six – it begs the question if the setting didn’t throw the Pistons, unaccustomed to the national spotlight, never mind the international stage.
“It was a packed house, which is something that hasn’t been typical for us this year,” Prince said. “The atmosphere was great. The arena was nice. There was no problem at all. One of you guys asked the question, will the layoff bother us. I wouldn’t have thought so, but the first quarter was pretty much the dictation of the game. We just didn’t come out with the firepower like we needed to.”
Long way to come for a game. Long way to drag home a loss.
“We obviously didn’t do enough,” Frank exhaled, “to deserve the win.”