Julius Randle showed off his here-to-stay three-point prowess as the Knicks turned up the heat in the second half against the Pistons.

The New York Knicks (3-0) defeated the Detroit Pistons (1-2) by a final score of 108-100. Detroit was without their number one overall pick Cade Cunningham and last year’s first-rounder Killian Hayes. New York rested Kemba Walker and Mitchell Robinson was out again, although head coach Tom Thibodeau said the center was a full participant at practice and might be ready for Friday’s final preseason game against Washington.

Jerami Grant led the way for Detroit with 18 points, four rebounds, and three assists. Saben Lee chipped in 14 points in the losing effort. Outside of those two, it was a pretty balanced attack offensively for the Pistons.

There’s honestly not much to take away from a preseason game that was missing so many important players for each team, but there were still a handful of positives to be excited about. Starting with Knicks star Julius Randle, who looks poised to add on to his incredible 2020–21 Most Improved Player campaign. 

The All-Star scored 16 points in the third quarter, which swung the momentum back in New York’s favor after trailing for much of the middle two periods. His otherworldly tough shot-making was on full display tonight, hitting an array of difficult fall-away mid-range jumpers that became his patent last year. When he gets to that left block and faces up, the defense already knows what Randle’s going to do, and it simply does not matter.  He ended the contest with 29 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists while giving full effort to the very end—even begging Thibs to review an out-of-bounds call with less than three minutes while being up eight points.

Despite Randle’s monster performance, Taj Gibson stole the show. The savvy vet stuffed the stat sheet ending with 21 points, nine rebounds, two assists, one steal, and two blocks. His positioning defensively gobbled up the Pistons’ attack all night. He was also setting monstrous screens freeing up Knicks’ ball handlers. Gibson is unique from the other centers on the roster because of his shooting ability, strength, and veteran leadership. He should continue to play a solid bench role for the ‘Bockers when Mitchell Robinson and Nerlens Noel return from their respective injuries.

Evan Fournier, the Frenchman who signed with New York this summer for four years, $78 million, continued to impress on both ends. His stats weren’t jumping off the page, but he offers playmaking off the dribble last year that the Knicks did not have at their starting 2 guard position, while still providing the defense and shooting that Reggie Bullock did. Those who thought he was a step backwards defensively from Bullock may be reconsidering that thought once the season begins.

RJ Barrett had a bit of an up-and-down performance. He was instrumental in the third quarter resurgence with Randle, but the rising junior’s off-the-dribble creation was lackluster. He had a few nice plays in the first half getting to the bucket off of a Gibson screen, and later finding him with a pocket bounce pass for a mid-range jumper, but other than those two plays, there were a lot of turnovers off the bounce and missed layups in the lane. This area of his game is a point of emphasis for the 21-year-old, and it’ll only continue to improve. Other than that, he continues to impress on the defensive side of the court as a help and one-on-one defender.

All in all, it was a nice performance for the short-handed Knicks. We have still yet to see them at full strength, but that may change this Friday when they take on the Washington Wizards in their final preseason game before the 2021–22 NBA season begins a week from today.

 

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