Not enough firepower for Pistons as Knicks pull away in fourth quarter
Jesse D. Garrabrant (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Sunday night’s 96-84 loss to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden
EMPTY TANKS – Christian Wood began the season out of the rotation – barely on the roster – and has become the indispensable man for the Pistons. But he was averaging less than 20 minutes a game over the first half of the season and only recently started playing starter’s minutes. After logging a heavy 38 minutes in Saturday’s loss to Utah, there was only so much in the tank for Sunday’s game at New York. Dwane Casey sat Wood for the first five minutes of the fourth quarter and New York outscored the Pistons 12-4 to take a nine-point lead on a night where nine points seemed like 29. Wood, coming off consecutive career-best scoring games of 29 and 30, led the Pistons with 22 points but didn’t have enough help or a passing gear down the stretch. The Pistons simply lacked firepower other than Wood and Bruce Brown, their only two players who finished in double figures. The Pistons have had plenty of days off between games of late – two between last week’s Denver and Phoenix games and two more this week before Wednesday’s game with Oklahoma City and Saturday’s with Utah. The weekend back to back was their first in a month when they played Oklahoma City and New York on Feb. 7-8. It wasn’t ideal to get a back to back with travel involved on a weekend when clocks were moved forward an hour, though Dwane Casey brushed that aside. “One hour and a back to back this time of year, it’s not going to make a difference,” he said. The Pistons shot like they had tired legs, though, shooting 36 percent overall and 29 percent from the 3-point arc.
ANOTHER LINEUP – One game after returning from a four-game injury absence, Bruce Brown was back in the starting lineup – this time at point guard and for Brandon Knight. Knight was listed on the injury report as questionable for both Saturday and Sunday games with a right hamstring strain, though Dwane Casey said before the game Knight was experiencing “a little soreness in his knees so we may watch his minutes, but it means more minutes for Bruce.” Knight wound up not playing at all while Brown logged 37 productive minutes, finishing with 16 points, four rebounds and six assists.Casey – as he had in Wednesday’s loss to Oklahoma City while Brown was out – again turned to Khyri Thomas for backup minutes at point guard. Thomas knocked down a pair of 3-pointers over a span of three possessions soon after entering the game in the first quarter but finished with just those six points on 2 of 6 shooting with zero assists in his 13 minutes. Swapping out Knight for Brown gave the Pistons their 31st different starting lineup this season, second in the NBA only to the Golden State Warriors at 33.
SECOND CHANCES – The Pistons have been outscored in second-chance points by a cumulative total of 36-9 over their last two games with the Knicks. In the 95-92 loss on Feb. 8 at Little Caesars Arena, the Pistons were pounded on the glass, outrebounded 47-28 overall and 16-3 on the offensive boards as New York amassed a 17-2 edge in second-chance points. It was more of the same on Sunday with New York holding a 13-0 edge in second-chance points before the Pistons got their first points late in the first half. The Pistons clung close to the Knicks in first-half rebounding, trailing 26-23 at the break, but the final total saw the margin widen to 51-35. Christian Wood’s eight rebounds led the Pistons with Tony Snell and Svi Mykahiliuk grabbing five apiece. Julius Randle led New York’s rebounding with 12 while Mitchell Robinson added 11.