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Game Preview: Knicks at Pistons- 12/29/21

A Motown team? More like ghost town team.

Detroit Pistons v New York Knicks Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

On December 21, the New York Knicks (16-18) held off the Detroit Pistons (5-27) to win 105-91. Evan Fournier led New York with 22 points; Julius Randle and Kemba Walker netted 21. Saben Lee scored 16 for Detroit.

Last night, in Minneapolis, the Knicks beat a taped-together Minnesota Timberwolves team, 96-88. Detroit is still limping from a 144-109 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday.

The Motor City Bad Boys are so reduced by COVID cases that they’re starting emergency-man Derrick Walton Jr. (no offense, Derrick, but still). Will the Knicks shred the paper bag currently standing in place of the once-mighty Detroit Pistons? Or, lapsed into over-confidence, will the Bockers forget how to play basketball and trip all over themselves?

Tip-off’s at 7 PM, ya lugnuts.

PROJECTED STARTERS

Here is Detroit’s latest injury report: Cade Cunningham (health and safety protocols), Jerami Grant (thumb), Killian Hayes (h&s), Saben Lee (h&s), Isaiah Livers (reconditioning), Kelly Olynyk (knee), and Isaiah Stewart (h&s).

Frank Jackson will likely start at point guard. The 6’3”, 205-pound Duke alum has averaged 10.9 points, 1.5 rebounds, and one assist per game. He’s a soft defender (116 rating) and a spot-up shooter, shooting 41% from the field and 34% from deep.

Thibs will probably rest Kemba on the second night of a back-to-back against the short-staffed, worst team in the league. Look for Alec Burks to start at point guard…and Deuce McBride to see some action. (Man, I cannot wait for the latter.)

Shooting guard Derrick Walton Jr. is 6’, 189 pounds, and happy to be here. He signed a 10-day hardship contract and has appeared in one game for the Pistons: zero points, four rebounds, one steal, two blocks, and six assists. Thrown into the fire as a starter, he could have done worse.

This season, Hamidou Diallo has averaged 7.6 points and 3.1 rebounds but scored 28 in 39 minutes against the Spurs. The 23-year old Kentucky product is a fine defender, using his 6’11.5” wingspan to net 3.5 deflections and one steal per game. The 6’5”, 202-pound wing will likely match with RJ Barrett, who zombie-strutted through most of the Detroit game. Tonight’s a ideal chance for RJ to rediscover his mojo.

22-year old Saddiq Bey is averaging 14 points and six rebounds. In the last five games, the 6’7”, 215-pound forward has seen his usage jump from 33 minutes per game to 38, and his stats have increased to 22/6.6/2.8.

Julius Randle puked all over the offensive end last night, shooting 5-for-20 from the field and coughing up the ball four times. But he did snarf down 15 boards and a block to go with his 13 points, so it wasn’t entirely gross. In Motor City, the table is set for Jules to eat well. Bet on the big Texan to fill his belly.

Rookie Center Luka Garza has averaged 7.4 points and 2.8 rebounds in the last five games, including 20 points in 20 minutes against the Spurs. The 6’11”, 235-pound neophyte gets the chance to start with Stewart sidelined.

Mitchell Robinson played a fantastic game in Minnesota last night, with 14 points, 18 boards, two steals, one block, and only two fouls. Put your money on the Cajun to be ragin’ again tonight.

PREDICTIONS

Knicks win. I mean, come on. They have to win, right?

In Toppin, Deuce, and Grimes I trust (with Immanuel Quickley playing the part of the occasional Neil Young). Tonight, the kids will harmonize beautifully, and New York will bring their record to 17-18, setting the stage for a New Years’ game in Oklahoma that could bring them to .500.

Detroit, Michigan. Wednesday. 7 PM. Rave on, Knickerbockers!