| Special to Detroit Free Press
The Detroit Pistons could use a little breather. The schedule finally provides one.
Playing their 36th game in a span of 10 weeks, the Pistons were defeated by the New York Knicks for the second time in five nights, 114-104, on Thursday at Madison Square Garden. The All-Star break will give a week off to an undermanned and underwhelming club with a 10-26 record, worst in the Eastern Conference.
Wayne Ellington scored 17 points, one of eight Pistons to score in double figures. Leading scorer Jerami Grant sat out his second consecutive game with a left quad contusion. A stomach ailment also forced top reserve Josh Jackson to miss his second straight game.
The Pistons were coming off an explosive offensive performance against Toronto on Wednesday, when they scored 43 first-quarter points and rolled to a 129-105 triumph.
In New York, the Pistons made 48.8% of their attempts but their defense sagged as the Knicks shot 54.2% from the field. The Pistons were held to 38.9% shooting in a 109-90 loss to the Knicks at Little Caesars Arena on Sunday.
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Knicks guard Derrick Rose didn’t play against his former team. He was placed under the league’s health and safety protocols on Tuesday. Julius Randle led the Knicks (19-18) on Thursday with 27 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists.
Stewart shows offensive development
Rookie Isaiah Stewart, who spends most of his time on the offensive end setting screens and scrapping for rebounds, displayed some offensive versatility in the first half.
He knocked in a midrange shot late in the first quarter, then scored eight second-quarter points. He made a layup after setting a screen for Saben Lee, then hit a baseline shot.
When he got the ball down low and saw a double team coming, he spun toward the baseline to get space, then drained another 10-footer. He put back his only miss of the half to reach double digits for the fifth time this season. Stewart didn’t take a shot in the second half and finished with 10 points (5-for-6 shooting) and four rebounds in 20 minutes.
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Long-distance shooters challenged
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau and his staff took note of Detroit’s 3-point barrage against Toronto in Tampa, when the Pistons made 20 of 41 3-point attempts.
The Knicks defenders kept much closer tabs on perimeter shooters, particularly in the first half when the Pistons made five of 20 attempts from 3. The Pistons wound up making 14 of 36 attempts (38.9%) from distance.
Ellington, who tossed in eight 3s en route to a season-high 25 points on Wednesday, drew special attention. He had defenders clinging him to him all night while scoring 17 points on 4-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc.
Triple-double duo cools off
Mason Plumlee and Dennis Smith Jr. became the first Pistons to have triple-doubles in the same game in 57 years against Toronto.
Plumlee battled early foul trouble Thursday but recorded a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds along with four assists.
Returning to Madison Square Garden for the first time since the Knicks traded him last month, Smith Jr. scored 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting with two assists and two rebounds in 26 minutes. He was whistled for a technical in the fourth quarter.