The New York Knicks (9-11) must be relieved to be playing the Detroit Pistons (5-17) tonight. The ’Bockers are 1-4 over their last five games and need a win to temporarily calm the curdling concerns in our collective bellies. Detroit’s entire starting five is listed on the injury report, either as Out or Day-to-Day. This is the third of four match-ups between the clubs this season, with the Knicks owning the series 2-0 so far. The Pistons are dead last in the Eastern Conference and, like the Knicks, have dropped two consecutive games.
All this gift game needs is a bow. Could be a real confidence booster!
Not so fast. The not-ready-for-primetime Pistons, consisting of mostly second-unit guys—and likely taken for granted because of it—carried a lead through the first three quarters of Sunday’s game against the Cavs, and only Donovan Mitchell’s 14 points in the final frame saved Cleveland’s keister. That makes me worry. New York is notorious for playing to their opponent’s skill level rather than their own. This could be another one of those games where we’re left asking, “My God, is Isaiah Livers a basketball savant, or are the Knicks just that terrible on defense?”
Gift game? Could be more of a trap game. Tip-off’s at 7:00 p.m., Matt Foley fans.
Cade Cunningham (6’6”, 220 lb.) is out, so Killian Hayes (6’5”, 195 lb.) will start in his stead. The third-year-man has averaged 7.1 points, 4.4 assists, and 2.7 rebounds in 23.5 minutes per game this season. Jalen Brunson will eat him up.
There is an alternate reality in which Tom Thibodeau rests Brunson, due to a contused right quad and (most likely) a sore ankle that was twisted in Sunday’s heroic loss to Memphis. In our realm of existence, however, the sadistic Thibs not only plays Jalen but keeps him on the floor for an extra ten minutes of garbage time. See if I’m wrong.
Detroit’s rookie heartthrob Jaden Ivey is day-to-day. Lacking him, the Pistons will probably start Rodney McGruder, who might not actually be a Saturday Night Live character. The Big Mac (6’4”, 205 lb.) has averaged 2.1 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 0.9 assists in seven games this season. Advantage: Quentin Grimes.
Saddiq Bey, (6’7”, 215 lb.) has averaged 18.5 points, six rebounds, and a steal in two games versus the Knicks this season. He’s considered a defensive sieve and has a 118 defensive rating. Perhaps RJ Barrett will capitalize on this match-up and use the opportunity to work on his shot, which has been terrible this season—which you know, he knows, and Thibs must know, right? As a reminder: 40% from the floor, and averaging 1.5-for-5.6 from deep (26.8%).
Bojan Bogdanovic leads the Pistons with 20.6 points per game. He’s day-to-day, though, so basketball savant Isaiah Livers will likely start. In his last game against New York, Livers collected 11 points, four rebounds, and two blocks in 22 minutes, while shooting 3-for-6 from deep. Julius Randle, please don’t let him embarrass you.
Marvin Bagley III started their last game but is questionable for tonight in Detroit. Look for rookie Jalen Duren to start against Mitchell Robinson, who played a good game on Sunday despite being stuck with Steven Adams. Rob had eight points, five rebounds, and two blocks when he first met Duren, while the young Piston notched 10 boards, eight points, and a steal. You bet I’m freakin’ excited to watch these two Godzillas clash again tonight.
New York finally recognizes a trap game in sheep’s clothing and rises to the occasion. Brunson plays far too many minutes, causing more caterwauling about Thibs by fans afterward. RJ plays competently on an opponent’s court. Randle records his tenth double-double of the season. The team rescues Alec Burks on the way out of the arena and leaves a tied-up Evan Fournier behind as compensation. Oh, and they win by 13.
Little Caesars Arena. Detroit, MI. Tuesday. 7:00 p.m. ET. Win one for Turd Ferguson, Knickerbockers!