Coming in it certainly seemed like an ominous game for New York, who had lost their previous four. A young aggressive Detroit team that can carve up the Knicks' guards and clean up a lot of messes near the hoop? I dunno, count me out. The Knicks lost the tip, and Detroit's first play was to isolate Marcus Morris on Carmelo Anthony for a 19-foot step back jumper, which he canned. Their next possession was a nice and normal pass from Reggie Jackson about 30 feet away, from the top to a wide open Kentavious Caldwell-Pope one foot away for a layup. Detroit got up by a good chunk early on and it sure felt like they were headed for a demoralizing blow-ouch.
Robin Lopez would have none of it, however, stunting early on Andre Drummond and keeping him clear of the offensive glass, doing his best to keep him completely out of the paint. Then he started tossing back everything Drummond tried to put up. He effectively kicked the cleat off the mooring and set Detroit's biggest, fasted boat adrift. He probably cracked a bottle of champagne on his own head before tip off.
- Lopez was positively magnificent tonight and is easily the star of the game. Drummond just seemed to be in a stupor for the majority of the contest. Robin dragged ass on a few possessions in the second half as Stan Van Gundy pressured his team to push the pace every time they got the ball and Drummond was able to beat him down the floor. Other than that Drummond scored mostly out of switches and funky miscues that are not recreatable.
Lopez matched minutes with Drummond (36 apiece) and just played him directly out of the game. Eleven points and seven rebounds for the big fella. Still flipping home hook shots from his shoe tops up. The greatest stat for him was probably his six rejections. He packed Drummond multiple times out of post-isos and patted away smaller Pistons' little paint junkers. Lopez also used all five of his fouls quite wisely. No cheapies.
- Derrick Williams used heating pads and calf stretching instruments to help him feel like he was back in pre-season form. He then proceeded to take Kristaps Porzingis' minutes down the stretch-- just like pre-season-- and dunked off of clever baseline drives and back door cuts. Derrick was joyously bopping around and split this coconut clean open. Also got to the line and canned some open jumpers, just like pre-season. Wonderful effort on defense keeping some jitter bugs square and corralling some rebounds too. 18 points on 9 shots. Let's hope the Big Pre-Season is here to stay.
- At one point Mike Breen put on his golf commentator (common tater, jaja) voice. The crowd was so quiet in the opening moments that Breen asked Clyde if he'd like to whisper for the rest of the game and then he did it. It felt dirty. Clyde, the epitome of style and grace, would have none of it.
- Kyle O'Quinn is a dense forest full of gnomes and easter eggs.
- Jose Calderon played the whole first quarter and led the Knicks in scoring after one. He shot a cinder block in his first attempt but after that he got a bunch of attempts with his momentum carrying him left. I've mentioned before that he is much more effective gathering to shoot when headed that way. Somehow the Pistons advanced scouts forgot to read Posting and Toasting as Detroit perpetually called out for his defender to send him to his weak hand on screens.
- Speaking of pushing someone to their weak hand, the Knicks perpetually shouted to send Brandon Jennings "weak", and he still went left every single time. He's a lefty, of course. Feel good story for Brandon, though-- he's missed all of this season and most of last year up until now because of a ruptured achilles. He was playing exceptionally well before the injury. He looked pretty normal out there. Best of luck to him.
On Jennings' first play, Stan Van Gundy was suddenly heard hollering out a play that sounded like it was called "Chintzy" for Marcus Morris. Basically Chintzy is a Horns set with Morris starting on one wing and winding around free throw line screens to get to the other side of the floor. From there he was allowed to isolate or call for a Drummond screen. It didn't produce a bucket. If there was an alternate reality where Melo could have been drafted by Detroit, he would have done well with that play. Good thing there's no alternate reality in the NBA. If there is an alternate reality in the NBA, I would like to be a beat reporter there.
- As for the coaching battle, back in reality, Derek Fisher made some smart changes to his rotation. He let Jose Calderon hang in a little longer, swapping out Arron Afflalo for Langston Galloway. Then he brought Afflalo back earlier to add some more pop to his bench unit. Also not letting Drummond catch a break with no Lopez on the floor was smart. He also was a bit more willing to ride the hot hand. Some creative stuff in the half court to boot. Nice game management from someone that people are trying to shine a brighter light on.
- Going back a bit, so that we can speak about more things that are weak: Bill Pidto rolling up his shirt sleeves to pretend he's working hard and sweating it out during the MSG 150 seconds of feckless dreck is a slap in the face to anyone that's ever had to push themselves to complete a task in a short amount of time. Have I ever mentioned that I dislike this segment?
- It struck me tonight that Ersan Ilyasova looked like Iron Balls McGinty from the movie, The Jerk. Then I realized he looked more like Richard Kiel, who played Jaws in a couple James Bond flicks. Kiel, oddly enough, was born in Detroit.
- I've got nothing but love for that classic Van Gundy family exasperation. Stan properly sussed out a plethora of Knicks SLOBs and BLOBs only to watch his players anticipate poorly and react slowly. If they kept stats for the amount of times your coach just threw his hands up or turned on his heel in disgust, the Van Gundy's would be on my Mount Rushmore. In my alternate NBA reality Mount Rushmore is in the Andes and it's Stan and Jeff Van Gundy, Hubie Brown and Luke Walton.
- Lance Thomas broke out the NBA Live '96 spin move on a fast break. It was so cheap and awesome.
- Carmelo Anthony moved into 32nd all time on the actual NBA all time scoring list ahead of Hal Greer and behind Larry Bird with this gem:
Get lost, Marcus.
The Knicks played as a team and played really well! They shared the ball, moved their bodies, set good screens more than usual and the tipping point was that Robin Lopez outclassed Andre Drummond on this evening. I'm a little surprised by the effort, to be honest. They're such an up and down team. It's like Melo's Bucket Hat Collection said in the game thread, I can't believe the Knicks won this particular game. Now we all have to go to bed to see if it's still a notch in the win column when we wake up tomorrow. Or is this the alternate NBA reality and we're dreaming right now? We'll just have to wait and see. Knicks don't play again until the year 2016!