The Knicks’ offense has been awful the past several games, occurring simultaneously with a losing streak. They can make it up against the Pistons.

If ever there was a get-right game, this would be it. The New York Knicks (24-25) are in dire need of a victory after dropping three straight, including an ugly loss to the Dallas Mavericks last night. Their opponent, the Detroit Pistons (14-34), have nothing to play for and would probably prefer to lose this game anyway for tanking purposes. That should lead to a win for Tom Thibodeau’s club, which has fallen off an offensive cliff in recent games, posting an Offensive Rating of 100.0, good for 29th in the NBA in the last five games.

Julius Randle is starting to show that he is human. All those minutes he played during the first half of the season seem to be taking a toll. The same could be true for R.J. Barrett. Tonight will give us further clarity. The Pistons have been the Knicks’ scout team this season, losing all four times (two in the preseason, two in the regular season) these teams have met.

The key to the game is simple for New York: score points. But there is some nuance to that.

Tired Legs and Poor Decisions

Tom Thibodeau is a good basketball coach. The way he has helped lift a roster that hung near the bottom of the league into the playoff picture has been a pleasant surprise. But that should not shield him from warranted criticism.

Elfrid Payton has become Thibodeau’s meat shield, though perhaps more accidentally than on purpose. Payton has drawn the ire of fans most of the season, and has been taking more and more bullets in recent days with the team losing games and not scoring points. The problem is not Payton—it’s Thibodeau and his obsession with keeping to his rotation no matter what.

Last night was a great example of Thibodeau’s self-destructive decision-making. Obi Toppin had finally showed up to play and was scoring in bunches. Thibodeau subbed him out for Randle, who finished 5-of-20 on the night and would admit himself he didn’t have it last night. He and Barrett looked noticeably out of it, and in the case of Randle, he simply looks like a guy who has played way too many minutes already.

Toppin did not get up another shot after his 4-for-5 start, which included a put-back dunk that sent Mike Breen and Clyde Frazier into euphoria.

If the team, specifically the starters, don’t have it going that night, adjust. Improvising seems to be one thing Thibodeau severely lacks, and it is starting to catch up with him. For tonight, maybe opening up the rotation to include Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina. Play the hot hand. 

Do something different. Please.

Other Notes

  • Barring any surprising injuries, the Knicks should have their full roster available again tonight, minus Mitchell Robinson.
  • Pistons rookie Killian Hayes, the seventh overall selection in the 2020 draft, is set to return from a hip injury that has cost him all but seven games of his rookie season. It was a bad hip that reportedly cooled the Knicks off on the lefty guard late in the draft process.
  • The Knicks signed center Norvel Pelle to a 10-day contract on Friday. It is unknown if the 28-year-old big man will be in Detroit or available to play tonight.
  • If the Knicks somehow drop this game, it may be time to start mildly panicking, as their next to opponents are the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics.

Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. ET in Detroit.

 

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»READ: Analyzing potential Eastern Conference playoff matchups for the Knicks

»READ: What we learned from the “Point R.J.” Barrett experiment

»READ: What’s the verdict on Obi Toppin?