Dennis Smith Jr. and the new-look Knicks aim to snap a dire losing streak against the Pistons.

The New York Knicks have whiffed on another opportunity to sweep a regular season opponent, as well as break their losing streak—which now sits at unlucky number 13. It also just so happens to be tied with a record for the longest winless streak in franchise history.

Now, the Knicks face the Detroit Pistons (23-29). The Pistons are among three teams—separated by just one loss—fighting for a playoff spot. For now, those three teams are on the fringe, but if the playoffs started today, they would all be out of the running. The Pistons are in the ninth slot, looking to gain ground on the Miami Heat.

They’ll have a good chance to gain some ground on the Knicks (10-42), as #TankForZion hits full speed. There might be motivation not to break the record for longest losing streak, but the Knicks’ season-low 84 points in their previous outing with Memphis didn’t seem so promising.

Detroit beat New York back on November 27th, 115-108, quelling a late-game comeback attempt by the Knicks. The two teams will meet again on Tuesday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.


 

Starting Five Shakeup

David Fizdale’s first season has been a tumultuous journey—one filled with surprises, frustration, and optimism for the futures of young players and rookies.

Fizdale has experimented with a number of different lineup combinations, but this team looks completely different from its November 27th iteration. In the previous meeting against the Pistons, Fizdale rolled out a starting five of Emmanuel Mudiay, Tim Hardaway Jr., Mario Hezonja, Noah Vonleh, and Enes Kanter.

Just over two months later, Vonleh is the only one still in the starting five. Mudiay is still out with an injury and according to the The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov, there is no definite timetable yet for a return.

Hezonja still gets a decent amount of minutes, but he now comes off the bench. The same can’t be said for Kanter, who has faded out of the rotation almost completely, and Hardaway has been shipped to Dallas.

While the newcomers from the Mavericks trade acclimate to their new surroundings, it won’t be surprising if Fizdale continues to experiment. However, with Mitchell Robinson out, DeAndre Jordan seems like a lock for the starting five for now, and Dennis Smith Jr. has the keys moving forward while the other point guards nurse their injuries. 

All eyes will be on the trio of new guys once again. Smith and Matthews didn’t really dazzle in their Knicks debut, with Smith scoring just eight points on 3-of-9 shooting, while Matthews was an ice-cold 2-for-8 en route to a five-point game off the bench.

On the bright side, Smith demonstrated some nice plays where you can see his fit with Fizdale’s system. He’s still young and he’s shown an ability to knock down those shots he missed on Sunday afternoon. His athleticism and speed allow him to get to the basket, where he can finish or throw down. He’s solid off the pick-and-roll, while paying attention to his surroundings. His drive-and-kick to Kevin Knox for three was a nice play, and although he didn’t score much, he did have six assists to just two turnovers. New York fans were probably expecting more out of him, as he did just have a triple-double at the Garden last week, but it’ll be interesting to see how he grows with the rest of the team. It was his first game in a Knicks’ uniform after all. 

Jordan was about what you could expect from the big man, getting a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds, although he did allow Marc Gasol to have a solid game—including the turnaround jumper to officially ice the game in the closing minutes.

Some of these new pieces may be gone by the end of the season, but it does give Knick fans something to watch for.

Prepping for the Pistons

The last time these two teams met, New York was decimated by Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson, with Stanley Johnson coming off the bench for another 21 points in a game where he didn’t miss many shots. Griffin and Jackson combined for 51 points. Andre Drummond wasn’t a big factor, scoring six points but grabbing 14 boards. 

His flashy “Lob City” years might be behind him, as he’s no longer in the Los Angeles limelight, but Griffin is on pace to make his ninth season in the NBA his best yet. An All-Star selection this year, Griffin rounds out the top 10 scorers in the NBA, posting a career-high 26.2 points per game entering Monday. He’s also averaging 8.2 rebounds per game.

Griffin has continued to develop his shot. He’s adapting to the new trend of stretch bigs, and that has done wonders for his game. He’s diversified his game since his rookie and sophomore seasons, which were known for rim-rattling dunks and alley-oops, becoming a savvy veteran big man who can score from almost anywhere on the floor. He will still deal a majority of his damage in the post, but now he’s hitting turnaround jumpers, mid-range shots, and three-point takes at a much higher rate than before. He’s worked hard over the last couple of seasons to incorporate the three-ball within his play; now he’s knocking them down at a respectable 35.8 percent mark.

His frontcourt mate, Drummond, might have just missed the cut for an All-Star selection, but he’s having a typical double-double season. He didn’t do much against the Knicks back in November, but he’s coming off of a big game, and a Drummond-Jordan duel will be fun to watch. This season, Drummond is averaging about 16 points per game and 15 rebounds per game. 

Jackson is primarily a playmaker, but he can score when needed. He’s the Pistons’ third-highest scorer after Drummond and Griffin. He’s averaging 14.6 points per game, but he stands out in the way he is able to facilitate and take good care of the ball. He’s only committed a total of 89 turnovers through 52 games. There are only six other point guards in the entire league who have played in at least 50 games, while averaging a minimum of 25 minutes of action, who have committed fewer turnovers. Jackson doesn’t make many mistakes with the ball. 

He and Smith have met once before this season. As a Maverick, Smith finished with 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting, with two rebounds and five assists against Jackson in a meeting on January 25th. On the other hand, Jackson struggled to find a scoring groove. He had 12 points, shooting just 4-of-14 on the floor, but he did dish out nine assists with just one turnover. This could be an interesting rematch.

 

This post was updated to reflect correct date of the game, on Tuesday, not Wednesday, and