Recap: Knicks 99, Pistons 85

Photo by AP/Kathy Willens

The Knicks had somewhat quietly won three games in a row before bursting out with a 39-points squashing of the Sacramento Kings this past Saturday. The Knicks continued to make noise tonight, winning their fifth straight game – and their fourth by double-figures – by knocking out the Detroit Pistons tonight, 99-85. A fiery hot start for New York blasted them off to a 20+ point lead for most of the first half and, thankfully, buoyed them through a sluggish second half. When the Pistons cut it close in the fourth quarter, some timely three-pointers – a trend on the night – kept them at bay and gave the Knicks the win.

First Quarter

The Knicks came out pounding the Pistons and never looked back. They allowed 13 points to the Pistons in the period, which set a season low for points allowed in any quarter by the Knicks. The Knicks did not shoot particularly well (they actually shot just 2/9 in the restricted area), but they made six threes which helped catapult them into a commanding lead. The 28-13 lead after one gave the team momentum heading into the second, which they used to shoot the lights out.

Carmelo Anthony got off to a hot start, scoring nine points (matching his total from last game) on 3-7 shooting. Tyson Chandler continued his dominance in first quarter, corralling eight first quarter rebounds.

Second Quarter

While the Pistons flailed around the court, the Knicks took advantage on both ends. Amar’e Stoudemire enjoyed his time as the featured player on offense with Chandler and Anthony on the bench, taking the ball to the basket on dribble drives and post move combinations, and even hitting a fade-away jumper on the low block.

However, with Chandler on the bench, the Knicks’ defense didn’t last long. The Pistons eventually got their footing and began to make a run at New York. In one sequence, the Pistons managed four shots at the rim with three offensive rebounds in between, before Amar’e Stoudemire was able to block Andre Drummond at the basket. However, the Pistons’ forays to the hoop continued. They notched three straight baskets in the paint, while the Knicks’ offense stagnated, swaying Mike Woodson to sub Chandler and Anthony back into the game.

Up 14 points just less than midway through the third quarter, the Knicks unleashed a fury of offense. Following two missed threes from Jason Kidd in a row (and two battled-for offensive rebounds from J.R. Smith and Chandler), Anthony was able to knock down the three-pointer. On the next two back-to-back possessions, Anthony and Smith exchanged three-pointers to push the Knicks’ lead to 20. A Tyson Chandler alley-oop and baseline dunk, followed by a three from Steve Novak cranked the Knicks’ lead all the way up to 25.

Behind some tight, energetic defense and a flurry of three-point makes, the Knicks (albeit with the help of some putrid play from the Pistons) led at halftime, 57-36.

Third Quarter

The Knicks’ energy and effort from the first half died out almost immediately in the third quarter. The zippy passes, smart plays, fought-for rebounds, solid rotations, and quick close-outs we had seen were replaced with poor shot selections, sloppy turnovers, and half-hearted rotations and close-outs. Tyson Chandler, in particular, had a poor beginning to the third quarter, consisting of a blocked layup, poor transition defense where his man got a layup, and then a slow close-out/switch onto Jose Calderon, who blew by him for an uncontested layup. The poor beginning prompted Mike Woodson to call timeout and give his team an ear-full.

While the Pistons didn’t threaten to get too close – the Knicks kept them at arm’s distance – the overall execution was lacking. While New York’s offense was sloppy, the Pistons also cut off the once-open paths to the rim and worked harder to force the Knicks to hit contested jump shots (they didn’t). Meanwhile, conversely to their season trends, the Knicks defense just didn’t give the same effort to deny the Pistons good looks. Detroit worked inside and out (while also controlling the boards) to put some points on the board.

However, the Knicks kept their lead pretty substantial with a final 8-2 run over the last four minutes. The highlight play being Anthony’s crossover into a dribble drive, where he found a cutting Amar’e Stoudemire with a bounce pass along the baseline. Stoudemire jumped into air, with his back turned to the basket, floated, did a 108-degree turn, and banked in the layup, reverse style.

New York closed the quarter up 76-58.

Fourth Quarter

The Knicks’ sloppy play continued into the fourth quarter. Luckily, the Pistons just weren’t fully up to the challenge of making it a ball game. The Knicks fired away from downtown, particularly J.R. Smith, who went 5-13 from beyond the arc for the night, but to no avail. Likewise, their sloppiness gave the Pistons more opportunities to tighten the gap. And it did get a little too close.

In a stretch where the Knicks coughed up the ball six times and missed their only shot attempt, the Pistons managed to make it a 12-point game. However, similar to the second quarter, the Knicks used a brief offensive eruption to effectively close the game. Back-to-back three-pointers from Smith and Novak took the life out of the Pistons’ comeback attempt. Raymond Felton capped it off with a pull-up jumper, and moments later, Stoudemire hit a layup to push the Knicks’ lead back to 18.

Woodson threw in the bench brigade and they rode it out until the final buzzer. The Knicks emerged victorious, moving to 31-15, their first time being 16 games above .500 since 2000.

Notes

- Tyson Chandler pulled down 20 rebounds for the third game in a row! He is the first Knick to do that since Willis Reed. A very cool stat, and great development to make Chandler damn near a perfect center. The only caveat being that he’s now played 55 combined minutes in back-to-back games. Health and rest should be a priority over stats, I believe.

- Amar’e Stoudemire, despite another great scoring line – 20 points, 8-14 FG – didn’t blend so nicely in this game. Though he, Anthony, and Chandler had some nice moments, there were plenty of other sloppy possessions where they all seemed to run into one another. Stoudemire has thus far, surprisingly, fit in well with those two. However, he should remain coming off the bench, getting the bulk of his minutes with the second unit where he can be featured and work with more space on the court. Also, more rebounding would be nice.

- In his last three games, J.R. Smith has taken five two-point shots, while hoisting a combined 40 attempts from three-point range. That’s a bit too much for a good, not great three-point shooter. Go to the rim more, J.R.

- Also, J.R. attempted to play basketball during the little kids’ halftime exhibition game. They didn’t pass him the ball once. It was quite amusing.

- A quiet, but appreciated night from Ray Felton tonight. 4 points, 2-5 FG, 5 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals. Kinda Jason Kidd-esque, no?

- The Knicks’ shot chart in the second quarter:

The Knicks are now officially on a roll, and have two more games against sub-.500 teams, both on the road, before they play the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. A seven-game win streak is quite possible, and an eight game win streak is not out of the question, as the Clippers have struggled in Chris Paul’s absence.