Powered by youth juice, the New York Knicks (32-42) shocked the first-place Heat on Friday night by winning 111-103. Immanuel Quickley, Deuce McBride, Quentin Grimes, and Jericho Sims incinerated a 17-point deficit with a tenacious, fast-paced style that those Miami slow pokes simply could not match (they’re 29th in pace, after all).
If the Knicks had the same record but played more often with Friday’s vim and vigor, our view of the 2021-22 campaign would be a whole lot rosier. Don’t tell this curmudgeon, however:
Today, our heroes face the Detroit Pistons (20-54). The Once-Bad-Boys are 3-and-7 over their last 10 games and 14th in the Eastern Conference, with the 24th-ranked defense and the 28th offense. On paper and pixel, the game looks winnable.
Detroit is no patsy, though, and I dread next year’s Pistons. They could vault up the standings with another player or two (and front office competency). Doubt it? Rookie Cade Cunningham has been a stud. Saddiq Bey is improving and scored 51 points against Orlando recently, and fellow sophomore Isaiah Stewart is ascending, too. Jerami Grant still has upside, either on the hardwood or as a trade piece. Finally, the Pistons have a high draft pick upcoming and money to spend on free agents. The days of rusty, rickety Detroit Pistons basketball will soon be behind them, mark my words.
This has been a season of development in the Motor City, with all the attendant growing pains. The Knicks beat them twice, and in the last contest, Alec Burks dropped a season-high 34 points to preserve the 94-85 victory. Bey countered with 32 points and nine boards for Detroit. The box score was vulgar for New York’s starters but lovely for the bench. Check out these +/-’s:
Will New York sweep the season series? Betcha they do. Tip-off’s at 3:30 p.m. EST, Marshall Mathers’ fans.
Playing his 11th season, Detroit’s point guard Cory Joseph (6’3”, 200 lbs) has averaged eight points, 3.7 assists, and 2.6 rebounds in 62 games this season. The Texas alum will mostly likely meet Alec Burks to start. The veteran Burks is a true asset for New York, no argument here, but Immanuel Quickley has earned the lead guard spot.
Quickley scored 20 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter on Friday night to steal and seal the win over Miami. Since the All-Star break, IQ has coordinated and incorporated teammates better than any other Knick. With eight games left, including today’s affair, Thibs must start Quickley to see how he performs in that role. The front office needs a better understanding of the talent on this roster before they invest (potentially heavily) in a guard this off-season.
But, you came for a preview, not a rant. On to Cade!
At shooting guard, Cunningham (6’6”, 220 lbs) is Detroit’s leader with 5.5 dishes per game and their second-highest scorer with 17.1 ppg. He also contributes 5.8 boards. A slow start hurt his chances for Rookie of the Year honors but Cade has since developed into a solid NBA player.
In his second year, Saddiq Bey (6’7”, 215 lbs) has averaged 16.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.9 assists. The Villanova product leads the roster in minutes per game (33.9) and 3-point attempts (7.5), but shoots only 35% from downtown.
Bey’s no great defender, so look for RJ Barrett to have an easier time scoring this afternoon. On Friday, Star-J struggled against Miami’s defense, finishing the game with 18 points and eight boards on 5-for-17 shooting.
Primarily a second unit guy this season, Kelly Olynyk (6’11”, 240 lbs) has averaged 9.1 points and 4.5 rebounds in 35 games. The Gonzaga alum will get his second start of the year if Jerami Grant (questionable) sits today.
Julius Randle will likely return to the Knicks’ lineup after missing three games. Three games of fluidity, energy, and enthusiasm. Three games that I have enjoyed more than most this season. Sigh.
Center Isaiah Stewart (6’8”, 250 lbs) leads his team with 8.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. With only 8.3 ppg, he’s no great scoring threat, but the 20-year old former Husky is tough and learning. If Mitchell Robinson still has a sore back, Stewart will oppose Jericho Sims, who is fast becoming a fan favorite and finished Friday with six points, seven boards, one block, one foul, and a +/- of 19 in 28 minutes (plus a slew of incalculable intangibles).
Despite their record, Detroit can test a team’s mettle, but I believe in the latest iteration of the Knicks, which features some springy youngsters who leap for loose balls, defend doggedly, fly up the floor, and swish their shots. The Knicks have a 213-176 record against the Pistons all-time. Make it 214. Prediction: Knicks by 3.
Little Caesars Arena. Sunday. 3:30 p.m EST. Rave on, Knicks!
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