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Pistons 122, Knicks 102: Scenes from a Piston-whipping

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Pain and frustration for the team and fans alike.

NBA: New York Knicks at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Deep in the heart of Texas, Kristaps Porzingis is smiling. Because tonight in southeast Michigan — Little Caesar’s Arena, to be exact (‘cuz why shouldn’t a billionaires’ plaything née public trust be in their third arena in 30 years...in Detroit, of all places, a metropolis just awash in budget surpluses and rocksteady infrastructure over that time?) — the Knicks’ penultimate game before Friday’s reunion with their erstwhile Latvian love was eerily similar to most of their games this year, this decade, this century. They lost, they never threatened to win, they defended like a teenager sulking after being grounded and the light at the end only means there are other days like beyond the horizon.

Still, as I’ve written here before, hasta en el roto del fondillo del Diablo hay poesia — there is poetry even in the Devil’s butthole. Julius Randle was spitting decisive, aggressive stanzas tonight.

After the Sacramento loss, Visions of future Shump wrote about Frank Ntilikina being a better defensive match-up with Buddy Hield than De’Aaron Fox. Tonight he opened matched on Luke Kennard and erased him from the Book of Life. Just brilliant defending from Ntilikina in the first half.

We also witnessed Frank’s first two free throw attempts. Alas, he missed them both after Wally Szczerbiak kept gushing and gushing about Ntilikina’s great free-throw shooting. Still, he looked about as comfortable on the offensive end as we’ve seen from him over the years.

Christian Wood is a Piston, but there is poetry in the enemy, too.

Poetry is music and music is progressions, and so there’s poetry in progression: after two sides of beef the past couple days, beef on both sides of the argument, RJ Barrett actually sat after 10 minutes. And when he did, manly men all over this great land wept and wailed and gnashed their teeth at the sight of their Übermensch reduced to a bench-bound soy boy.

Our boy Kevin Knox had one of those lovely Knoxian floating drive-and-dunks.

The strongest verb in the English language is “is.” RJ is old man strong at 19, and his sneer is, too.

Problem is, Andre Drummond has old man strength too. Detroit’s piston’s one of the strongest players in the league.

Want a little more poetry? Marcus Morris, everybody, capping a 13-4 run late in the half that tied things at 57.

Epilogue:

So, that was the poetry. Now for Lucifer’s tuchus:

While Randle did put up 17 in the first half, he put up nothing else. One rebound. One assist. One steal. The Knicks need someone to feed them some Hungry Man Breakfasts. Randle put forth a Pop Tart performance: tasty, but also empty, in a way.

The Randle/Morris yin-yang continued. In the first half, Randle had 17 and Morris just 6; in the second half Mook scored 12 and Julius only three. Markieff Morris matched that with a single flick of his wrist.

Taj Gibson started the second half and made his presence felt, especially on the offensive end, of all things.

But he was only playing because Mitchell Robinson was done for the night with concussion-like symptoms sustained after a first-quarter Markieff elbow. It looked innocent, but remember there is a history there...

Detroit led most of the game. There was mad back-and-forth, with both teams making mostly small runs, then slipping up some. New York just couldn’t get over the hump. This didn’t help. This didn’t help at all.

That call birthed a six-point play, pushing the gap from two to eight. From there it was all downhill. Two failed Barrett fast-breaks sandwiched a Tony Snell three. Former Knick Langston Galloway found Drummond for another dunk. The deficit hit 14 — a bridge too far, it’d turn out.

In addition to Drummond’s 27/12/7 line, the Big Penguin entered the fourth with half as many rebounds as the whole Knicks’ team. To put it visually, Drummond was the dude in the clip below. The Knick bigs were that poor lady.

The Knicks entered the final frame shooting 52% from the field and 48% from downtown. How is a team putting up those numbers trailing by double-digits? Because the other team was hitting 60% overall and 50% on 3s.

Don’t jump ship just yet. The Knicks were already short-handed with Dennis Smith Jr. and Elfrid Payton out. Losing Robinson was probably the worst possible injury to suffer early in a game against the Pistons; Drummond was unstoppable after that. And there was poetry to keep close to your heart and whistle next time you’re in darkness: Ntilikina, and Knox, and RJ putting up another well-rounded performance (in just 34 minutes this time!). But in isolation? Devoting 2.5 hours of your life to this spectacle? Well, if you missed it, you didn’t miss it. Ya dig?

Recap pending.