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Game Preview: Knicks vs. Pistons-12/21/21

Dot’s back, baby!

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New York Knicks v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

Tuesday, the Detroit Pistons (5-24) arrive in Manhattan to face the New York Knicks (13-17). Under normal circumstances, the Knicks would feel confident about playing the cellar-dwellers. Given New York’s lackluster season and COVID-reduced-roster, domination feels…less than guaranteed. Detroit did beat the Miami Heat 100-90 on Sunday, after all.

As for our heroes, the shorthanded Knicks fell to an equally-undermanned Boston Celtics 114-107 on Sunday. Due to attrition, Coach Thibodeau allowed last-point-guard-standing Kemba Walker off the pine and back on the hard maple. Walker’s inspired play (29 points) followed reports that no teams were interested in acquiring the 31-year old and ignited re-litigation in the Twitterverse about his recent benching.

Will Walker light ’em up again? Will a trade partner be convinced to take a chance on him? Or, will Thibs explore ways to incorporate Cardiac Kemba in a reserve role while also giving time to upstart Deuce McBride once the team is whole again?

Oh, the drama. Tip-off’s at 7:30, motorheads.

PROJECTIONS

First off: you wanted Damyean Dotson back, you got him back:

Will he play tonight? Probably not. Feels right to see him in a Knicks uni again, though.

Starting for the Pistons at point guard is the seventh pick in the 2020 draft, Killian Hayes. Hayes is averaging 6.4 points and 3.7 assists this season on 34% shooting from the field and 32% from deep. Against him, Kemba should easily repeat the impressive performance he gave in Boston. Cue the Twitter outrage.

At shooting guard is the number one pick in the 2021 draft, Cade Cunningham. He’s averaged 15.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, and five assists so far. Like fellow 20-year old Hayes, Cade’s shooting averages are poor: 39% from the field, 32% from deep. Here, too, expect Evan Fournier to fill up the score sheet.

This season, Hamidou Diallo has averaged 7.6 points and 3.1 rebounds. The Kentucky product is an explosive athlete who can rattle a rim but won’t attempt many long-balls. Advantage: Alec Burks.

With Jerami Grant out (torn UCL, left thumb), 22-year old Saddiq Bey has slid into the starting power forward spot. This year, he is averaging 13.3 points and 5.8 rebounds. Expect Julius Randle to give the neophyte the business.

Rochester’s own, and personal favorite, Isaiah Stewart (6’8”, 250lbs) has averaged 8.3 rebounds and 7.9 points this season. He’ll be a tough assignment for Nerlens Noel (6’11”, 220lbs), so look for Mitchell Robinson to get action early off the bench.

Hurry back, young ones, this Knicks team is not the same without you.

PREDICTIONS

Even with their diminished numbers, New York should win this game, as long as they play to their talent and not the opponent’s. And brace yourself for more well-meaning but erroneous Twitter declarations that Walker deserves permanent reinstatement in the starting five.

The Big Apple. Tuesday. 7:30 PM. Avoid embarrassment, Knicks!

PS: Permit me a bit of P&T nepotism and check out part one of Abe Beame’s deep dive on Donnie Walsh here. Just the sort of longish-read to enjoy with a mug of cocoa and my feet up, whetting my whistle while I await my copy of Bood in the Garden. Stuff your stockings, Knicks fans.