It was obvious from the start that the Pistons' starters were looking to take care of business early. After receiving the tip from Ben Wallace, Rip Hamilton found Tayshaun Prince for an alley-oop lay-up to put Detroit on the board just three seconds into the game. Prince was fouled by Nate Robinson and made his free throw, giving the Pistons a three-point lead. After Ben stole the ball on the very next possession, Robinson committed another foul, this time on a streaking Rip, who made one of two free throws.
Knicks interim coach Herb Williams, filling in for an ill Larry Brown, was then forced to pull his starting "point guard"Sorry, but Robinson's not fooling anyone -- he's a 5-9 shooting guard. less than 30 seconds into the game, replacing him with Ime Udoka. Who? Exactly. Game, set, match. The Pistons eventually scored 15 points before the Knicks hit their first bucket, and by the time the first quarter ended, Detroit had jumped out to a 22-point lead, 40-18. Even though the Knicks outscored the Pistons the rest of the way, the win was never in doubt for the Boys in Blue.
Detroit's starters played little after the first half -- only Ben played as many as 30 minutes. Rip led the way with 28 points on 10-18 shooting (and 7-9 free throws) in just 27 minutes, while Tayshaun scored 20 on 8-10 shooting in 29 minutes. Chauncey Billups, who needed just 24 minutes to hand out 11 assists, scored seven.
Again, Detroit's "big three" of Antonio McDyess, Lindsey Hunter and Tony Delk all played at least 20 minutes. For the second game in a row, Hunter did a great job running the show, handing out five assists with nine points in 24 minutes. (Three-point shooting was not his forte, however, as he made just 1-6.)
As for the Knicks, Robinson led the team with 23 points, but it should be noted that he scored just two in the first half with Detroit's starters in the game. Jamal Crawford, on the other hand, placed second with an evenly-distrubted 18 points, including 3-7 three-pointers. He grabbed five boards and handed out six assists, but he had no handle with seven turnovers.
On a sidenote, it's my guess that most NBA fans would had never heard of Nate Robinson were he 6-1 instead of 5-9. But given his Smurf-ish stature and thug-like aggressive attitude, he's become something of a media darling, which resulted in his being handed the Slam Dunk contest on a silver platter at the All-Star break, even though he needed a yawn-inducing 14 attempts to nail his winning dunk... not to mention the fact that Andre Iguodala's from-behind-the-backboard dunk was one of the coolest moves the contest has ever seen.... But what most of the public doesn't know is that his immaturity on and off the court (Spitballs? Just ridiculous.) had Larry Brown lobbying to send him to the D-League earlier this year. Even though he's started a few games and enjoyed a couple of 30-point outbursts, I doubt his long-term future in this league is as secure as a lot of people seem to think. When Isiah is fired (or at least salvages his job by cleaning house in the offseason), don't be surprised if Nate-Rob is among those players jettisoned from the roster.
And of course, the win also gave Detroit their franchise-record 64th win of the year, toppling the previous mark of 63 set in 1989. We've known this one was coming for a while, but it sure feels good now that it's here.
Pistons 103, Knicks 97 box score [ESPN]
Nate nearly shut down [New York Daily News]