New York — Midway through the third quarter, New York Knicks forward Isaiah Hartenstein poked the ball away from a driving Cade Cunningham and the ball landed in RJ Barrett’s hands. The Knicks’ fast break was initiated and Barrett lobbed the ball to a floating Obi Toppin for a two-handed slam.
Fans inside Madison Square Garden erupted, just as they’d done several times throughout the game when the Knicks scored in transition.
The Pistons had 22 turnovers in Tuesday’s 117-96 preseason loss, leading to 26 Knicks points from those giveaways. Pistons coach Dwane Casey said he watched the game film twice, and the turnovers were an emphasis in Wednesday’s practice, along with more attention on matching the physicality and intensity that the Knicks played with.
“A lot of great teaching points for us,” Casey said. “New York’s a very physical team for us. It was exactly what we needed to get our guys’ attention. The intensity, the physicality on the floor — offense and defense that everyone plays with — gives us the ammunition to say, ‘Hey, this is how you gotta play.’ … We had turnovers that were soft turnovers, lazy passes, and again, physical and aggressive defense that tells you exactly what we have to do.”
Detroit’s starters combined for 10 of those 22 turnovers, including Cunningham’s four giveaways. Ivey was the only starter who finished the game without a turnover, a rare occasion for a rookie that also facilitates the offense.
Cunningham, entering his second year in the league, took responsibility after the game and said he wants to limit those turnovers as much as possible.
“It’s something that we all need to be focused on,” Cunningham told The Detroit News. “Me being one of the primary creators, I need to make sure that I’m limiting my turnovers and keeping that number down, for sure. I’m one of the top ball-handlers and guys that’s trying to get us some offense and kick the ball to guys, so making sure I get it to them in their shooting pockets so they can go create for themselves is important.
“Limit the turnovers — they got 25 points off turnovers, so they created a lot of offense off it and it collapsed our defense a lot. It impacts both sides of the ball. We gotta be mindful of it.”
The Pistons will practice one more time in New York on Thursday before heading west to face the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night. The Pelicans are coming off a 129-125 win over the Chicago Bulls, a game in which they forced 27 turnovers.
It’s only the first preseason game of the season for a Pistons team that featured two new players in its starting lineup, so there’s no need to push the panic button. Forward Isaiah Livers, who finished with two turnovers himself, believes the turnovers won’t be a problem once the team starts to jell.
“I think so. It’s just about making the right read, right pass, being confident with the ball,” Livers said. “Like I said, it’s our first time playing with other people. Guys are still learning how to play with each other. Guys are having fun, too. We had good spurts. We had good stops, good offensive possessions. We had to execute too. Other than that, I thought we played pretty hard.”
On the flip side, the Pistons showed their ability to become disruptive as well. The team forced 13 turnovers and scored 20 points as a result, including a breakaway dunk by Ivey.
If the Pistons can limit their mental mistakes and continue to take advantage of opportunities created by their own defensive intensity, then they could see a quick turnaround.