Well, that was freaking ugly. But, as bad as it looked, I do have some good news: it only counts as one loss.
"It's always one or two games like this a year," Billups said. "You play 80-something games, 100 games, you're going to have nights like this."
Seriously, this was one of those games, a game so bad that there's really no point trying to take anything from it. The Pistons made mistakes (although honestly, not many: they committed just 11 turnovers) but more than anything the reason for the loss was frigid shooting by, well, everyone.
Tayshaun Prince (0-10) failed to score, Rip Hamilton (1-7) had just three points and Rasheed Wallace (3-9) had only six. You won't see three starters on this team combine for just nine points in any other game -- it just doesn't happen. As a team, they shot just 30.7%, including 25% and 17% in the second and third quarters, respectively.
Maybe the team was caught looking past the Knicks, or maybe the dreaded "complacency" bug reared it's ugly head. Or maybe, and this is the most likely scenario, the team simply entered the game on fumes and ran out of gas early. It was their fourth game in five nights, and for whatever it's worthy their arrival to NYC on Saturday night/Sunday morning was pushed back when the Bobcats game went into overtime. From the Freep:
That fatigue led to some silly mistakes. Prince was called for a questionable inbounding violation when the official said he stepped in before his passed. And twice the Pistons fouled players as they attempted three-pointers.
"We had a foul to give at the end of the half," Saunders said. "And we foul a guy and give him three shots. That's kind of a synopsis of what we did the whole night."
The game was pretty much over the moment the Pistons let the Knicks jump ahead on a 15-4 run in the second quarter. That snowballed into an absolutely ridiculous third quarter in which the Pistons set a franchise-low with just 10 points. At least Flip Saunders had the good sense to throw in the towel once he realized there would be no magical comeback. Antonio McDyess led the starters with just 31 minutes, and the only reason he played that long was because he was the only one who actually had a good game (15 points, 6-11 shooting, 13 boards).
Playing the entire fourth quarter, Amir Johnson finished with eight points (3-3 shooting), including a dunk and a free throw with just 13 seconds left that helped Detroit set the franchise-low for points scored in a game. Johnson made a few mistakes (two personal fouls and three turnovers) but is doing enough things well that he's winning over at least one of the beat writers. From A. Sherrod Blakely's post-game blog:
It might be time for Flip Saunders to try and incorporate Amir Johnson into being that fourth big man. Amir's defense needs to get better, but his knack for scoring is just too good to be saddled on the bench.
If Amir's performance helped convince Saunders even a little that playing Amir a bit more is a good idea, well, that's what's called a silver lining.
Random funny story that won't make you bang your head against the wall: My HOOPSWORLD colleague Tommy Beer was at the game and had a funny story from his halftime blog entry:
Knicks management, and MSG as a whole, has taken a lot of heat (rightfully so) for many of their decisions this season but they got in right tonight. They put the final series of the Giants / Cowboys game on the big screen for the Big Blue fans to watch it live. The PA guys even played the "De-Fense" chant while the Cowboys had the ball and were driving. They actually delayed both teams coming back on the floor to allow everyone to watch Tony Romo's pick ending the game. Special credit to Pistons Head Athletic Trainer Mike Addenour who was wiping up imaginary wet spots in order to elongate the timeout. The crowd was in full throat when the Giants sealed the deal.
Knicks 89, Pistons 65 box score [NBA.com]
Tired Pistons blown out by Knicks [MLive]
Road trip ends on sour, surprising note for Pistons [Free Press]
Stars of the New York game [MLive]