December 1, 2022

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The Knicks survive disaster while avoiding a comeback to beat the Pistons

The Knicks survive disaster while avoiding a comeback to beat the Pistons

Knicks did not provide the breath-taking response or intense response expected after the no-show loss to the net on Wednesday.

Yes, they rolled off the carpet Friday night with a 27-point win over their Crosstown rivals. But it was more like surviving a disaster than 48 minutes of full basketball to boost confidence.

The Knicks got rid of the Pistons with three wins, 121-112, Friday night at the park, mostly because the table-runners gifted them an inferior opponent who was without the top player. Detroit is rebuilding and hasn’t had the building block Cade Cunningham, the #1 pick in the 2021 draft.

“It was very important [to win this game]. I saw what happened on Wednesday, and we needed to recover,” said Galen Bronson. “We kept fighting, although we could have finished the match a little better.”

The Knicks had many opportunities to drop the hammer over the course of a modest effort, but they couldn’t do it until the end. There have been plenty of defensive lapses, second-chance chances given to the Pistons and general inconsistency, which has been a hallmark of the Knicks (6-6) so far this season.

There were positives. RJ Barrett scored a season high of 30 points in one of his best games of the youth season, and Bronson scored 26 points, 11 in the fourth quarter, and seven assists. But the defense was shaky most of the night, sending Detroit to the free throw line 41 times. The Pistons, yet to have a win on the road, came close to four points with 1:20 remaining before Barrett hit two free throws and Emmanuel Quickli put them away with a 3-pointer in the left corner while the Knicks were back to 0.500.

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“It’s hard to put a team off if you’re constantly putting it on the line,” Barrett said.

RJ Barrett shoots during the first quarter.
RJ Barrett shoots during the first quarter.
Charles Wenselberg/New York Post

It was a huge win, maybe an ugly one. The Knicks needed to build momentum as they entered the grueling five-game Western run that will begin Tuesday in the surprise jazz. Friday’s win was at least a small step in the right direction, with thunder hitting the park on Sunday.

Julius Randle, right, hugs Tom Thibodeau.
Julius Randle, right, hugs Tom Thibodeau during the Knicks’ win over the Pistons.
Charles Wenselberg/New York Post

Six points from Barrett as part of a 9-0 streak late in the first quarter helped snatch the Knicks off a steady start. So did Derek Rose, who was the first Nick off the bench and scored a plus-12 rating in an opening half of six points and eight minutes.

Long into the second quarter, coach Tom Tebodeau went to duo Julius Randle Obi Tobin up front (Jerico Sims and Isaiah Hartenstein were both in bad trouble, which necessitated a move), with Quentin Grimes, Barrett and Bronson in the backcourt. The Knicks built their lead up to 16 with this pentathlon on the floor, although there was some slip in defense and the Pistons only fell by 10 at the break.

Attacking performance during the first 24 minutes was similar to many of the Knicks’ wins this season: 13 assists on 23 field goals, points from eight different players and an uptempo attack led to an open appearance. The ball moved, extra passes were made and shots fell.

Jalen Bronson scores during the second quarter.
Jalen Bronson scores during the second quarter.
Charles Wenselberg/New York Post

“It was fun to play basketball in this way, with so many players involved, and everyone contributing,” Barrett said.

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The Knicks started the second half well, pushing their lead to 17, but at the end of the second quarter, they were unable to maintain that advantage. When Jaden Ivey and Hamidou Diallo scored for Detroit respectively at the start of the fourth quarter, the Knicks’ lead was seventh.

I got closer in the last ninety seconds. But the Knicks made enough plays along the stretch to dominate, and the tension was running out. This is what matters most to them on Friday night.

“[On Wednesday] “We weren’t at our best, and that got us back on the right track,” Randall said.