Points hard to come by as Knicks put the clamps on Pistons, who shoot 38 percent in loss
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Sunday night’s 109-90 loss to the New York Knicks at Little Caesars Arena
NOT ENOUGH FIREPOWER – The Knicks brought the NBA’s No. 3 defense to town and the Pistons responded with their lowest-scoring second quarter (17) and first half (37) of the season. It wasn’t all the Knicks’ doing. The Pistons shot 31 percent in that first half and hit just 4 of 15 from the 3-point arc. It got better but not by much after that. And New York, which shot just 37 percent itself in the first half, got rolling more emphatically than the Pistons in the third quarter when they scored 35 points and extended their lead to 24 at one point. The only Pistons starter to make more than half of his shots was Mason Plumlee, who only took five shots. The other four starters shot 13 of 45. In a Jan. 10 loss to Utah, the Pistons scored 86 points and shot 33 percent, their worst numbers of the season in both categories. The Jazz rank one spot ahead of the Knicks in defense at No. 2. Julius Randle, a first-time All-Star selection, led the Knicks with 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists and hit 10 of 18 shots. Jerami Grant led the Pistons with 21 points and eight rebounds, but was 2 of 9 from the 3-point arc and 7 of 19 overall.
TRADE PARTNERS – Three weeks after being traded for one another – the Pistons also picked up Charlotte’s 2021 second-round pick in the deal – Dennis Smith Jr. and Derrick Rose faced off, each performing well for their new teams and both elevated to the starting lineup by injury. Smith had a tough shooting night – he had plenty of company – and finished 3 of 11 for seven points plus four assists and seven rebounds. Rose, who played 38 minutes in New York’s win Saturday over Indiana, finished with 14 points and five assists. Rose’s scoring is down a little with the Knicks though his efficiency has improved. He’s averaging 12.3 points and 4.9 assists in 24 minutes a game for the Knicks after averaging 14.2 points and 4.2 assists in 23 minutes for the Pistons. Rose is shooting less (10.6 shots a game) with the Knicks than he did in Detroit (12.3) but shooting better with New York, especially from the 3-point line (.421 vs. .333) – and, true to form, he hit 2 of3 triples against the Pistons. Smith appeared in only three games for the Knicks due to a quad injury that knocked him from the rotation. In nine games with the Pistons prior to Sunday, he’d averaged 7.9 points and 3.2 assists in 18.6 minutes a game, though in four starts he’s averaged 12.0 points and 4.0 assists in 21.6 minutes with more steals (six) than turnovers (five).
TRADE PARTNERS II – The matchup of Dennis Smith Jr. and Derrick Rose wasn’t the only one featuring players traded for each other. The Pistons gave Svi Mykhailiuk the start at shooting guard over Wayne Ellington – his only other start this season came last week at Orlando when Ellington got the night off – and that had him guarding and being guarded by Reggie Bullock. The Pistons sent Bullock to the Los Angeles Lakers two years ago at the trade deadline for Mykhailiuk and a 2021 second-round pick. Mykhailiuk has had trouble sustaining any kind of momentum this season, his 3-point percentage remaining stuck at .326. Mykhailiuk went 2 of 18 from the 3-point arc in the season’s first three games, but appeared to find his stroke after that, making multiple 3-pointers in his next six games and seven of eight. But Mykhailiuk, remarkably, has not made multiple 3-pointers in consecutive games since then – a streak of 25 games. He was scoreless in 20 minutes, missing all three of his shots, all from the 3-point line. Ellington, shooting .434 from three for the season, hit 52.2 percent of his triples in January but entered Sunday’s last game of February making 21.1 percent from the 3-point arc. He hit 4 of 6 from the 3-point arc in a 15-point performance, the first time since January that Ellington made more than two triples in a game.