The New York Knicks have arguably been the Detroit Pistons’ toughest matchup this season. The Pistons had already lost to them four times this season before Sunday, including once during preseason and three during the regular season. Three of those losses were by at least 20 points.
The Knicks completed the regular season sweep at Little Caesars Arena on Sunday, defeating the Pistons, 117-104. The Pistons were without leading scorer Bojan Bogdanovic, who sat out with a non-COVID illness, but got Isaiah Stewart back from a three-game absence with left shoulder soreness. Jalen Duren missed his fifth straight game with right ankle soreness, and Nerlens Noel was a late scratch with knee soreness after starting their last three games.
Stewart and Detroit’s forwards weren’t able to slow down Julius Randle, who went off for 42 points and 15 rebounds while making 15 of his 24 shots. Randle has enjoyed playing the Pistons in Detroit: During their last matchup — on Randle’s 28th birthday — the standout forward went off for 36 points in 31 minutes to lead New York to a 140-110 blowout win. On Sunday, he was helped by Stewart being Detroit’s only available big man.
PISTONS MIDSEASON GRADES:Young core shining despite ugly losses piling up
“I thought he made some tough shots,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “I thought (Stewart) was up into him, challenged some shots that he made. That’s what max (contract) players do. They make tough shots and he made them. We mixed in some double teams and Julius did a good job of kicking it out. But the one-on-one plays, he just put his shoulders down, got his shoulder hits and made some fadeaway tough shots. Some of those are hard to double team because they’re right there in the middle of the floor as a one-on-one, iso player.”
The Pistons (12-35, third-worst record in the NBA) have lost 12 straight to the Knicks in the regular season, the last win coming Nov. 6, 2019. The Pistons had previously won eight in a row vs. New York, before this losing streak.
Saddiq Bey (21 points, six rebounds) and Jaden Ivey (21 points on 7-for-19 shooting, six rebounds, six assists) led the Pistons in the scoring column, and Kevin Knox provided 16 points on 5-for-6 shooting with three 3-pointers off the bench. Isaiah Livers, who received his first start since Dec. 1, added 11 points, and Killian Hayes flirted with a double-double with nine points (4-for-14 shooting) and nine assists.
Detroit trailed by as many as 20 points in the first half, but closed the second quarter with a 15-4 run to cut the halftime deficit to 62-55. The Pistons got within seven again midway through the fourth quarter, after Livers sank his third 3-pointer of the night to extend a 16-5 Pistons run. Ultimately, the Pistons struggled to make up for New York’s size advantage with Duren and Marvin Bagley III out. The Knicks (25-19, sixth in the Eastern Conference) scored 44 points in the paint and outrebounded the Pistons, 52-38, with 18 coming on offense.
The Pistons only have one game over the next week, with a trip to Paris and a date with the Chicago Bulls on Thursday (3 p.m., NBA TV).
With Bogdanovic out, Bey fills void
All season, Bogdanovic has been Detorit’s best and most consistent scorer, and has been available, with Sunday his third missed game. The Pistons were going to have a tough time without him, especially against a Knicks team it had already lost to by a combined 63 points through three regular season games.
But Bey did his best to make up for Bogdanovic’s absence. This was Bey’s third game this season making at least five 3s, and his fourth consecutive game with at least 17 points. He has had an increased role over the past two weeks as the team has weathered injuries, and got his fifth straight start.
Bey hit two 3s in the third quarter, including one with 55 seconds left that cut the deficit to 86-80. He finished 5-for-10 on 3s and 6-for-14 overall.
Knox delivers efficient game
It has been an up-and-down season for Kevin Knox, but the fifth-year forward found a rhythm against his former team. His 16 points were his highest tally since he scored 17 during a win over the Charlotte Hornets on Dec. 14, and only his second time reaching double figures in the month-long stretch of games since that win.
While Knox’s minutes and role has fluctuated based on the Pistons’ injury report, he is quietly having a solid offensive season. Entering Sunday, he shot 45.3% overall and 35.6% from 3. Sunday was his fifth time this season making at least three 3s. He stepped up to help the Pistons weather the absence of Bogdanovic.
Check out the latest episode of “The Pistons Pulse” podcast, with Free Press beat writer Omari Sankofa II and former Division I player and current analyst Bryce Simon. Listen on Apple, Spotify or wherever you load up podcasts.