Wayne Ellington led the bench mob in a comeback over the Pistons, as the Knicks suddenly are on a four-game winning streak ahead of the All-Star break.

The New York Knicks defeated the Detroit Pistons (19-36) by a final score of 95-92 on Saturday evening with a bench-led comeback. Pistons power forward Christian Wood finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and two assists while the Knicks’ power forward Julius Randle finished with 17 points and seven rebounds, tying veteran shooting guard Wayne Ellington in leading New York in scoring.

With the victory, the Knicks are winners of four(!) straight games and move to 17-36 on the season. 

At some point, it just becomes tiring. Watching a team that sits 20 games under .500 still playing their veteran players is just exhausting. Players doing whatever they want on the floor, while others get largely benched after a handful of fouls gets tiring. The Knicks are tiring, and even with a solid Marcus Morris trade, the reality is simple: this team is a chore to watch. 

But watch I did and for a moment, I ignored the fact the kids sat on the bench as the Knicks made a solid comeback. After digging a deep hole early in the game, New York’s veterans fought back in this one, pulling even for the first time with 6:35 left in the third quarter and keep Detroit at bay for much of the fourth quarter.

No one on the Knicks really shined in this game, as the Pistons took advantage early on, with the likes of Wood and point guard Reggie Jackson leading the way. Jackson, who could be bought out by Detroit, did a good job of distributing and creating for his fellow teammates, while Wood took advantage of his frontcourt matchups. With longtime All-Star center Andre Drummond traded on Thursday, an undermanned Pistons team was rotating their guys a ton, allowing every one of their available players to get minutes on the floor, including new center John Henson, acquired via the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Speaking of matchups, Detroit’s collection of big men brought a different look against the Knicks, as all of them were able to stretch the floor and handle the ball. The quartet of Thon Maker, Wood, Henson, and rookie Sekou Doumbouya gave New York’s big men fits because of their ability to run some pick-and-roll at the top of the key, drive or shoot over New York’s bigs and play solid defense. 

Even with a strong first quarter and their big men pestering the Knicks, the Pistons found themselves surrendering a lead with the game’s final four minutes. Why? New York’s bench did an excellent job contributing. Wayne Ellington (17 points) and Bobby Portis (11 points) gave the Knicks two strong scorers who stretched the floor when on the floor. 

In the end, it was a fine victory for a Knicks team that needed one. That said, watching the majority of minutes go to the veterans after the trade deadline was a tough pill to swallow. It was a balanced victory against a Pistons team that is just as bad as the Knicks. Ah well. 

Here are some notes

  • Mitchell Robinson needs to start. Seven points and five rebounds in 19 minutes with a team-high +13 plus/minus rating. His fouls are still an issue, but Robinson provides so much positive value on the defensive end, that it almost doesn’t matter. With all respect to R.J. Barrett, Robinson is the transformative player on the roster who can change the team. Place Robinson as the backline center, similar to Clint Capela, and let him go.

  • Wayne Ellington, a buyout candidate for New York, has played well the last two games and should get more rotation minutes as a shooter. It’ll be interesting to see who falls out of the rotation once Maurice Harkless is active and available, but Ellington, Bullock, and Portis are three guys who can shoot well and provide offense in spurts. 
  • Hate to be negative, and I think he gets too much slander, but moving Julius Randle has to be the first move for the next front office. Randle had a solid game (17 points, seven rebounds, and three assists), but the issues are just glaring at this point. He’s blocked constantly when attacking the rim, he provides no defense, and doesn’t space the floor. For the richest contract handed out by the ‘Bockers over last summer, he’s a rough fit on a good team and has been a tough watch. 
  • New York is going to have an interesting decision to make on Elfrid Payton. Payton finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. He controls the tempo and in total, he’s a perfectly fine point guard under a solid number ($8 million, only $1 million fully guaranteed) for next season. The Knicks could use an upgrade—ideally, one who can shoot from three—but keeping Payton and drafting a point guard isn’t a bad alternative. 
  • The kids are just stuck at the moment. Barrett played poorly, Kevin Knox, exciting block aside, didn’t light the game on fire and the two-man point-guard combination of Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. were invisible outside of a few plays.

The Knicks have a quick turnaround, traveling to Atlanta to face the Hawks at 6 p.m. ET tomorrow.


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