Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
When: 7:30 PM EST, Jan. 2, 2014
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit
Exceptionally Detailed Analysis
This team is fun right now, as evidenced by Brandon Jennings' cheerleading performance against the Magic. It really shows the camaraderie and chemistry of a team that the now highest-earner and historically large ego player can celebrate with his teammates even though he himself has had an off night (5 points, 2-9 shooting). This is a team that is really enjoying playing the game right now, and when you're having fun, you generally think less and go on instinct, which can lead to more natural, free flowing play and better results.
Per basketball-reference and fellow DBBer Shinons*, the Pistons are currently on a six-game streak where they have scored 100 or more points, dating back to the 117-106 loss to Dallas on Dec. 17. The team is 3-3 over that stretch, and the only other streak of over 100 points a game was two, and they came in consecutive overtime losses to Boston and Philadelphia on Dec. 3 and Dec. 6. In the three losses before Josh Smith was waived, the team allowed 337 points combined, compared to 311 points scored. However, in the three following victories of the PSE (post-Smith era), the team has allowed a meager 275 points, against 331 points scored. There may have been some kind factors, such as the Cleveland game, where the stars seemed to align in terms of our hot shooting and their eskimo nature, coupled with Irving's injury, but this team has defended better in the PSE. Maybe it was a focus on defense in the three days before the Pacers game, or maybe everyone is more keyed on to their man, but the team looks sharper now.
The Pistons come into this matchup on the back of a 109-86 annihilation of Orlando in Orlando (which I unfortunately missed). Jodie Meeks exploded for 34 points including 9-11 from downtown, a career high. The 14 triples made in the game followed the 17 rained down in Cleveland, and adds to 41 in three games in the PSE, compared to 215 in 28 games with Smith, meaning there is more spacing as the jumbo is eliminated, Monroe provides the adequate mid range jumper (sometimes) to worry his man, leaving man coverage on the rest of the team and space inside for Drummond. D.J. Augustin also had a good game off the bench, finishing with 11 and 10 assists, while Drummond has 17 and 22 rebounds. Anthony Tolliver also made his debut as a Piston in his fabulous knee-high socks, finishing with five points (2-6 FG, 1 3PM).
The Knicks are even more of a train wreck than the Pistons were. Currently at 5-29, on a nine-game losing streak, the Knicks lost their last meeting to the Los Angeles Clippers 99-78, with Carmelo Anthony leading the team with 19 points, on 18 shots. The next best scorer had nine (Prigioni, Bargnani), and the team collectively shot 38.1% from the floor, including 23.5% from deep. Interestingly, the Knicks are the 2nd best FT shooting team, but only shot 66.7% in this game. There are problems with New York. There were early season rumours of a bust-up between Anthony and Tim Hardaway Jr. over who is the better no-defense chucker, and any team with J.R. Smith is bound to suffer occasionally. Imagine if the team still had Raymond Felton, they might be 0-34 at this point in time.
Last Time We Met
Nov. 5, 2014, the Pistons registered their first win of the season, defeating New York 98-95 behind a monster 23 point, 18 rebound explosion from Greg Monroe. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope supplemented with 20 points, while D.J. Augustin added 12. The Pistons shot 11-23 from deep this game, and on recent evidence, history could repeat. Hardaway Jr. led the Knicks with 20 points.
Players To Watch
Pistons: Brandon Jennings
This is just as much for his off-court shenanigans as his on-court swag. Even before his tenure in Detroit, Jennings somehow struck me as slightly surly and moody, and someone who wouldn't really fill a Kent Bazemore/Robert Sacre/Patty Mills type bench supporter/towel waver. Granted, I loved him as a player, and still do, but his demeanour has impressed so far, especially against Orlando, when he had a trash game, but was still cheering and waving and screaming from the sidelines at the contributions of potential All-Stars D.J. Augustin, Jodie Meeks, Anthony Tolliver and Joel Anthony.
Honestly, I have no idea. Half the squad appears to be injured, and the rest is a collection of D-League talent like Travis Wear and Shane Larkin. Honestly, I doubt the Sixers would play Travis Wear, let alone the Knicks. Perhaps Tim Hardaway Jr. With J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert both hobbled by injury, he's been getting serious run, so look for him to have a nice night. Otherwise, Melo will just take his 25 shots and score 24 points.
- Knicks G Tim Hardaway Jr. played collegiately at Michigan from 2010-13
- Pistons asst. coach Tim Hardaway Sr. is the father of Knicks G Tim Hardaway Jr.
- Knicks G Jose Calderon played for the Pistons for part of the 2012-13 season
- Pistons GM Jeff Bower was Director of Player Personnel in NOLA when they drafted J.R. Smith (now you can sleep at night)
- Pistons G Brandon Jennings and Knicks C Samuel Dalembert played together in Milwaukee in 2012-13
- Pistons G Brandon Jennings and Knicks F Carmelo Anthony are both graduates of Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, like another former Piston who shall remain nameless (hint: PSE)
- Pistons C Andre Drummond was born in Mt. Vernon, NY
- Pistons G Jodie Meeks and Knicks C Samuel Dalembert played together for the 2009-10 Sixers
- Pistons F Luigi Datome and Knicks C Andrea Bargnani are current members of the Italian national team
- Pistons writer Ben Quagliata owns a jersey of Knicks F Carmelo Anthony from his days in Denver
The hot form as of late coupled with New York's struggles leads me to believe the Pistons can make it 4 in a row here.
Pistons 112, Knicks 96
Pistons: Jennings, Caldwell-Pope, Singler, Monroe, Drummond
Knicks: Calderon, Hardaway Jr., Anthony, Aldrich (lol), Jason Smith
Pistons: Dinwiddie (Grand Rapids DL)
Knicks: Dalembert (ankle), Stoudemire (old age), Shumpert (dislocated shoulder), Early (knee)
How much has the chemistry of the team lifted the last few games?
Opponent perspective: Posting and Toasting