Cancel the parade down the Canyon on Heroes if only for one day. The New York Knicks limped out of the gate with their undefeated preseason on the line and struggled to finish as they fell to the Detroit Pistons 99-91. Dropping their formerly pristine preseason record to 1-1.
Over the past five years, the Knicks have struggled to have the kind of long range assassins now plentiful across the league, and last night showed that the team’s offense can still go through difficult stretches of unwatchable basketball. The Pistons opened up the first quarter in a zone defense that New York simply could not shoot them out of and into playing man. The befuddled offense had six first quarter turnovers and were quickly down double digits before the end of the period.
The problems weren’t just on the offensive side of the ball. A more involved Blake Griffin led the Pistons on offense as the team took advantage of plentiful Knicks turnovers. Detroit shot 55% (11-20) from the floor and a red hot 55.6% (5-9) from distance. As Griffin continues to find his legs following another season lost to injury, he remains one of the league’s best power forwards and players.
In the second quarter the Knicks were much more engaged on the defensive end, giving their offense more opportunities to cut into the lead. Opportunities they desperately needed as the continued to struggle with the zone defense. New York would turn the ball over another six times in the second frame. Coach Tom Thibodeau gave former Kentucky point guard and first round selection, Immanuel Quickly his first minutes in the blue and orange in an effort to shoot Detroit out of the zone. IQ recorded his first bucket as a professional, and helped to bring the Knicks back into the game. Quickly and Frank Ntilikina ended the first half as the only two players on the team with a positive plus minus.
In an expedited preseason, we will see Coach Tom Thibodeau try out new rotations and strategies like playing Obi Toppin and Julius Randle together. Thibs would run a small ball lineup with the two through the last six minutes of the first half. A move which would end in Randle hitting a three and bringing the Knicks to within ten as the teams broke for the half.
A quick steal and a bucket led to the Knicks to being down eight just seconds into the third. Another game under Thibodeau where the team came out of the halftime locker room with the necessary adjustments to make a run. In the third, thanks to the hot hand of Alec Burks, who poured in nine from distance in the frame, the game would be tied with roughly 3:30 left in the third. The game would seesaw back and forth before being tied up as the quarter ended. As the contest became closer, Thibs would leave the starters in for over ten minutes in the frame. A sign that he will be going with the hot hands regardless of circumstance moving forward as he did in Minnesota and Chicago.
In the fourth, the Knicks shooting woes returned. Mitchell Robinson recorded five fouls in 12 minutes of playing time, and with a less aggressive rim protector, the team struggled to shut down Detroit. Thanks to an impressive offensive effort by RJ Barrett (25 points on 10-17 shooting) the team stayed close until Josh Jackson, the ex-Phoenix Sun, rattled home a pair of threes to extend Detroit’s lead to seven. A lead the Pistons would never relinquish.
Austin Rivers and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did not play for the second straight contest. Both free agent signings are working through injuries, but were officially listed as “DNP – Coach’s Decision.” After a first game where Knicks Twitter had put him on the road to the Hall of Fame, Obi Toppin struggled with his shot recording just four points on 1-9 shooting.
The New York Knicks are back in action Wednesday night, 12/16, at 7:30pm Eastern Time at Madison Square Garden against the Cleveland Cavaliers (1-0).