On April 3, 2021, in their last match-up of the season, the Knicks shellacked the Detroit Pistons 125-81. New York scored 41 points in Q1, Julius dropped 29 (20 in the first!), and the dearly departed Reggie Bullock notched 22. The Pistons never had the lead.
You can expect the same on Wednesday when Detroit visits Madison Square Garden for a 7:30 p.m. exhibition contest.
On Monday, the Grizzlies tore off the Pistons’ arms and decimated their campsite. Final score: 127-92. No Detroit starter EXCEPT Jerami Grant scored in Q1, and the Grizz owned the paint. NY’s frontcourt should feast on rebounds.
In Saturday’s win over the Wizards, the Knicks shot 52 threes, which would have been a regular-season record. Final score: 117-99. Coach Thibodeau is prioritizing the long ball, and the team is obliging him. It’s early, but the change looks legit. The Knicks should launch a bunch against the defensively deficient Pistons.
Often this preseason, the Knickertrotters looked to be playing along to “Sweet Georgia Brown”. An increase in 3s, floor spacing, fluid passing, defensive discipline, and depth? These Knicks are better than a play-in team and headed in a different direction than Detroit.
After two abysmal seasons, this could be coach Dwane Casey’s last shot to save his job. He has a few encouraging players on whom to hang his hopes, at least. Unfortunately, many of those players will be sitting out this game.
The number one overall pick, Cade Cunningham is destined to be the face of the franchise. He scored 24 points (7-10 from deep) against the NY Summer-leaguers. He’s out with an ankle injury. Look for a capable Frank Jackson to get his minutes (12 PTS in 22 MP vs. Memphis).
Last year, Syracuse alum and Olympian Jerami Grant (F) had a career year with 22.3 PPG/ 4.6 RPG / 2.8 AST. If the losing continues, the talented Grant might beg his way out of Michigan. Jerami should square off against the NBA’s best dad Julius Randle, if Mrs. Randle has delivered their latest bundle. If not, the rapidly improving Obadiah Toppin will start.
Point guard Killian Hayes has recovered from a scary hip injury sustained in January. I’m glad; a labral tear can end a career. He earned praise for better shooting and passing in Pistons’ camp, but disappointed in the first preseason game and got a concussion in his second game. He’s out as well.
During the 2020 draft, desperate for a PG, I wanted the Knicks to take the French ball handler (sounds like a dirty movie). Instead, Hayes went seventh, right before Obi. Leon Rose & Co. made a good choice. A Hayes pick would have altered the team’s trajectory, and I invalidated myself as a candidate for future Knicks presidency. C’est la vie.
Look for Toppin and/or Kevin Knox II to bump around with Kelly Olynyk (last name a word jumble). The Canadian continues his journey across the map, from Boston to Miami to Houston to Detroit. Soon he’ll find Sacramento. He’s a career 10/5/2 in 22 MP and brings size and experience off the bench. He and Trey Lyles should split back up PF/C minutes.
Last season, Sophomore Saddiq Bey was a ball-stopper and struggled to read defenses. He played well in this preseason’s first game ... and twisted an ankle in the second. Most likely, Casey rests him on Wednesday. Look for Hamidou Diallo (7.5/3.6/1) or Josh Jackson (12.3/4.2/2.0) to start in his place.
Isaiah Stewart (7.9/6.7/0.9 in his rookie season) is taking his lumps in his first attempts to anchor Detroit at center. He was a foul machine vs. Memphis. If he can stay on the floor, and if Nerlens Noel sits again, Isaiah should receive invaluable tutelage from the immortal Taj Gibson. Look for Jericho Sims to log heavy minutes.
Is it me, or did Thibs scream “Jer-i-cho!!!” a LOT during the Wizards’ game? I imagine Sims waking up in a cold sweat, his bellowed name ringing in his skull. Reminds me of another raw center who Thibs made his personal project . . . who went on to win 2014’s defensive player of the year . . . Joakim Noah. (The good version, not the bum who joined the Knicks for a minute.)
Speaking of former Bulls: Derrick Rose should oversee the bench brigade unless his recently twisted ankle is sore. Notable: Rose led the 2019-20 Pistons in scoring with 18.1 PPG. At the time of last season’s trade, Casey told Derrick that going to NY was a lateral move. Not quite. I bet Dwane would take him back, especially since the PG he got in the exchange (DSJ) has vamoosed. C’est la vie.
If Rose sits for precautionary measures, expect Immanuel Quickley to run point for the second unit. Or, maybe even Deuce McBride. One can hope.
Detroit’s been in the cellar so long, they’re damp. It would be nice to see something good happen for them—just not when they play the Knicks. As they will this Wednesday. NYC. 7:30 tip-off. Go, New York, Go.
Prediction: Pistons commit a bunch of fouls. Knicks score a bunch of points.