The Pistons entered Saturday’s game against the Knicks with a 32-33 record and sole possession of the woeful Eastern Conference’s 7th playoff seed. This is a team that is absolutely better than the Knicks, but past performance does not guarantee future results, and victory is no sure thing when you’re a sub-.500 squad still fiddling with your starting lineup. You could lose to anyone, even the Knicks!
So yeah, I was worried. Could the ‘Bockers stumble backward into victory? Would Derrick Rose see the light after one of Phil Jackson’s legendary triangle seminars? Would the starters play anything resembling even remotely good defense?
The Knicks hung in there for a good 2-3 minutes, with Willy nailing a few quick buckets and the score knotted at 9, but just as the first bead of sweat began to form on my forehead, the Pistons when on a 12-0 run powered by Tobias Harris and a multitude of Knicks turnovers (an unsightly 18 on the game vs 7 for the Pistons).
The deficit hot air ballooned to 18 in what felt like no time. I glanced at a frosty cool Bud Light I opened at tip-off and it couldn’t have been more than ⅔ empty, which is roughly 8-10 minutes of game action, depending on how sad I am. Point being it was still the first quarter and the Knicks were down almost 20.
Turnovers from Rose, shoddy defense leading to wide-open 3s (have you heard this one before?), and a photo of Isiah Thomas on the jumbotron had the Knicks juju right where they needed it. In the toilet.
It got so “bad” that Hornacek sent in Chasson the Tank Assassin (it drives me crazy that this doesn’t rhyme) in the first quarter to stanch the bleeding. He entered the game with a positively spicy hand (spice level: jalapeño), nailing a quick three in rhythm before successfully launching a half court heave to end the quarter. I know Joe showed you this in the postgame, but we deserve nice things once in awhile so let’s take another look:
Replays showed that Randle beat the clock by about a tenth of a second, making this the first time the Knicks didn’t get screwed by a replay in 6,000 years.
The second quarter saw a lineup of Kristaps and The Bench Bros (Randle, Justin Holiday, Lance Thomas and Kyle O’Quinn) cut into the lead thanks to quick ball movement and somewhat frisky D, but Tobias Harris’ hand was even spicier than Chasson’s (spice level: habañero). He finished the half with 23 points, just 3 off his season high of 26, which he would eclipse in the opening moments of the third. Despite their improved effort the Knicks were only able to bring the lead down to a still-robust 13.
The third quarter, traditionally a time of great horror and sorrow for the Knickerbockers, was the Knicks’ best quarter of the night. They outscored the Pistons 28-23 behind a hot but not scorching hot Kristaps Porzingis (spice level: freshly cracked black pepper). He finished with 18 points on 3-7 shooting from behind the arc.
He passed too, hitting his best bud Willy (this is technically alliteration even though it doesn’t look like it) for a couple of wide open looks underneath the basket. He had 4 official assists, but he easily could have had 6-7 if his teammates made some of their open looks.
The Knicks were somehow able to close the lead to 4, thanks in part to another 3 from CHASSON THE TANK ASSASSIN (still bugs me that this doesn’t rhyme). It seemed possible, if highly improbable, that the Knicks could stick around for a little while and make things interesting.
But... they didn’t. The Pistons unleashed a brutal, effortless sonning in the fourth quarter to put to sleep the listless Knicks, who mustered a measly 11 points and sent in human surrender flag, Sasha Vujacic.
The Knicks lost by 20, but more importantly remain within spitting distance of Orlando for the 5th seed in the tankathon.
Time for some notes!
- You may have noticed that I didn’t mention Carmelo Anthony once in the recap. That’s because he was largely invisible. He had 2 points in the first quarter and finished with 13 overall. He shot well from outside (3-6) but seemed on the brink of taking off his shoes and sitting at center court, Richie Tenenbaum-style. I’ll let Ian Begley explain:
Carmelo took 9 shots in 36 min today - the 3rd game of his career playing at least 35 min & attempting 10 or fewer shots, per @bball_ref.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) March 12, 2017
Sharing the ball is good, but Melo seemed checked out. Makes you wonder if he’s had it with the Knicks. I guess we’ll find out soon enough!
- Speaking of Melo checking out, he did the saddest, most lifeless 3-to-the-dome celebration I’ve ever seen in the 3rd quarter. It brought the Knicks to within 12.
- Kristaps wasn’t amazing tonight, but he was pretty good! His touch inside the arc was a bit iffy (7-16 overall), but he finished with 6 blocks, which is an EXTREMELY spicy number of blocks (spice level: ghost pepper). That’s just one off his career high of 7 against Daryl Morey’s Layup Line and Three Point Emporium.
These blocks didn’t necessarily feel that important, because nothing feels consequential when you’re down by 18, but it’s not like the Pistons weren’t trying to score on him. He earned each and every one of them.
Kristaps remains the light at the end of the Knicks’ otherwise pitch-black tunnel. Yes, the tunnel is strewn with boulders. And yes, it’s absolutely lousy with blood-thirsty cave beasts, but if you squint hard enough you can make out the faint outline of a future, and like Carmelapplestappz Godzingodthony said in the game thread, it feels all warm and snuggly.
- Speaking of Kristaps, he’s demonstrated a very nice chemistry with The Spaniard, as Clyde is fond of calling Willy. The only thing that worries me is how these two play defense together. Who’s going to cover the smallish 4s? Porzingis can absolutely become that type of defender, but he’s not there now, and I don’t think Willy has much of a chance.
- The side of Aaron Baynes’ head is not simply shaved. It’s shaved to the bone. Does he take a straight blade to it during timeouts? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a scalp so scrupulously shorn.
- In related news, Aaron Baynes looks like a dork. Look at this doof.
- Like Joe mentioned in the postgame thread, this was the last time the Knicks will play at The Palace at Auburn Hills, which is absolutely one of the best named arenas. I’d go so far as to say it’s my second favorite arena name after Madison Square Garden. Every other arena is named after banks, energy companies, or banks/energy companies. I’ll miss you, Palace at Auburn Hills. Stay golden.
- The Palace closing, sad as it may be, lead to Clyde saying “No malice at the palace” in response to the Knicks lackluster play. I love you, Clyde.
- This poor, poor child, already disillusioned with the life of a Knicks fan, was spotted drowning his sorrows in the second half.
Soaking wet shirt. Flushed face. He’s got all the hallmarks of a baby with a drinking problem. I’m sorry, baby, but you should know that It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.
- Willy came thisclose to a double double, finishing with 14 points and 9 rebounds. He was -17, though, and like the rest of the starters didn’t do himself any favors on the defensive end.
- Ron Baker didn’t play at all until 1:30 left in the fourth quarter. I thought he was sitting out due to the passing of his grandfather, which is sad but understandable, so I was confused to see him enter the game with so little time left. Why bother? And furthermore, Is Hornacek ensuring the tank by never playing Randle and Baker during the same game? It’s definitely curious.
- During pre-game intros Kristaps was announced as the center and Hernangomez was announced as a forward. It’s almost as if Detroit couldn’t understand why the Knicks don’t play Kristaps at the 5 more. Imagine that!
- Speaking of the handful of players I care about going forward, Chasson Randle scored a career-high 12 points (4-7 from 3). Congrats, Chasson! May you shatter this record in a loss against Brooklyn tomorrow.
- Chasson got a lot of burn with the starters, which was nice. There were two separate stretches where the starting lineup was intact with him instead of Rose. I’d like to see more of this. Please hear my cries, Jeff!
- Is it just me or is Clyde obsessed with soft rims? He mentioned soft rims at The Palace tonight 2-3 times and it feels like nary a week goes by without some arena’s rims being deemed soft. Soft rims don’t get past Clyde. No, sir.
- Kyle O’Quinn makes nice passes. Kyle O’Quinn was the only Knick who finished with a positive +/- at +1 in 19 minutes. Kyle O’Quinn squatted down like a catcher during pre-game warmups and received a “pitch” from Carmelo Anthony of a balled-up t-shirt. Kyle O’Quinn!
- Courtney Lee is lowkey one of the Knicks’ biggest offenders when it comes to complaining about fouls. Cut it out, Courtney! You’re better than this!
- Hernangomez treated us to the spectacle of Hack-A-Drummond when the Knicks were down 15 with 3 minutes to go in the 4th. I’m not sure if Hornacek called for that or if it was muscle memory, but Willy and Andre shared a chuckle afterward, presumably over the ridiculousness of the situation, and Drummond playfully slapped Willy’s ass.
So there you have it. Another day, another loss, another coat of varnish for the tank.
The Knicks face Brooklyn tomorrow, which is as tough a challenge as they come, but with the power of the SEGABABA and Derrick Rose, anything is possible.