After Monday’s poor outing against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Detroit Pistons looked improved against the New York Knicks on Wednesday. They crashed the boards harder, took better care of the ball and controlled the pace of the game for long stretches.
But the Knicks ultimately prevailed, using a strong third-quarter performance from reigning Most Improved Player Julius Randle and a scoring outburst from Taj Gibson to win at Madison Square Garden, 108-100. Detroit led 56-52 at halftime but faded down the stretch, mustering 44 points in the second half.
Jerami Grant led the Pistons with 18 points, Frank Jackson added 15 points and seven rebounds, and Saben Lee scored 14 points and dished out five assists in his second preseason start. Randle led the Knicks with 29 points — 16 in the third quarter — 11 rebounds and five assists. Gibson added 21 points and nine rebounds.
Killian Hayes (concussion) and Saddiq Bey (left ankle sprain) both missed the game after starting Monday.
Detroit went on a 21-6 run to take a 28-20 lead early in the second quarter, but they couldn’t overcome cold shooting. The Pistons shot 40.4% and just 29.7% from outside. But they also made some positive strides, dishing 24 assists against 15 turnovers and narrowly winning the rebounding battle, 48-47.
The Knicks used an 18-5 run at the end of the third quarter to take a five-point lead entering the fourth and never trailed again.
Lee showcases improved shooting
Hayes’ absence paved the way for Lee to start his second preseason game. During his pregame availability, Dwane Casey listed two things he wanted to see Lee accomplish — play strong defense, and play with an assertive pace.
“Scoring will be gravy,” Casey said. “If he can get to the paint and attack in transition, that’s great.”
Lee was one of Detroit’s better players, but not for the expected reasons. Continuing a Summer League trend, Lee knocked down all four of his 3-point attempts, more than he has had in any regular-season game.
Outside shooting was on Lee’s list of offseason improvements to make. He didn’t take many 3-pointers as a rookie — roughly one every two games. Lee preferred to live in the paint. But he showcased a more confident stroke in Las Vegas, knocking down eight of 20 3-point tries in five games. If defenses begin respecting Lee’s shooting, he could turn into a serious threat.
With Bey out, Pickett steps up
With Bey in street clothes with a left ankle sprain, the Pistons were even more shorthanded at the wing. Enter Pickett. The undrafted rookie out of Georgetown has been a pleasant surprise for the Pistons since Summer League; while he didn’t play a lot Wednesday, he still delivered his best preseason performance so far.
Pickett checked in toward the end of the first quarter and ended it by tipping in a missed layup from Cory Joseph. In the second quarter, he knocked down a contested catch-and-shoot 3, with another tipped-in miss not long after.
In 17 minutes, Pickett scored seven points and grabbed five rebounds. It’s unlikely he’ll be a major rotation player this season, but he continues to show why the Pistons like him. He can shoot and impact the game with his length, and NBA teams will always need big wings with Pickett’s skills.
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