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Knicks vs. Pistons Game Preview: New York might have Triangle troubles but everything’s better with more Kristaps

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Carmelo Anthony is still the headliner but he’s joined by a handful of new faces

NBA: Preseason-New York Knicks at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

There is no way around getting old. It happens to everyone. There are, however, two distinct outlooks to choose from when collecting birthdays. Option No. 1 revolves around being open to change and, maybe, accepting change. Option No. 2 is Clint Eastwood from Gran Torino in full, “Get off my lawn!” mode.

By clinging to the Triangle offense, post-Lakers Phil Jackson signaled he’s ready to point his shotgun at some street toughs.

He even looks grumpy in that picture.

The “skill level” argument seems debatable but if you’re under the impression that it’s true, then why are you shoving the Triangle down your players’ throats? The complication lies in the never ending adjustments that come into play based on how the defense reacts - that does take some basketball smarts. Just like the quarterback has to know the assignments of the other 10 members on offense, all five players on the court must know the intricacies of each “spot” on the court.

Refusal to fully commit to the Triangle cost head coach Derek Fisher his job in New York.

Enter Jeff Hornacek.

Game Vitals

Where: Palace of Auburn Hills; Auburn Hills, Michigan
When: Tuesday, November 1st 7:30 PM EST
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit

Game Analysis

Every team in the league runs variations of the Triangle, the problem with Jackson’s Knicks is that he seemed to exclusively run the Triangle. By all accounts, he’s been more “hands off” with Hornacek running the show. For Knicks’ fans, this is a good thing as Hornacek has been granted the opportunity to include other sets into his offense but the Triangle is still alive in the Big Apple. Let’s take a quick look at it.

This is your basic Triangle set:

Courtney Lee, Willy Hernangomez and $wag form a strong side wing-post-corner triangle with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis spacing the floor on the weak side. Nine times out of 10, the first option is feeding the ball to post, from there, it’s basically read and react.

In this case, Lee throws the ball into Hernangomez (who gets pushed to the very, very high post) and immediately sets a cross pick - albeit somewhat a moving pick - for Porzingis. $wag moves to the opposite corner and Melo replaces Lee’s original spot. The ball is swung to Melo and then again to KP for an easy mid-range.

The Triangle thrives under three conditions: Strong post presence, timing (spacing) and the ability for all five players to replace each other’s (as Melo did for Lee) spot on the court. All three conditions are largely based on roster personnel. Although it worked in the above example, if Willy Hernangomez is consistently getting pushed out of the post, it will throw off the timing and is a clear indicator of a weak post presence.


Remember when this happened?

It just shows you how lazy those Darko comparisons were. Porzingis is good, he’s damn good in fact.

The Knicks and Hornacek have given KP a much longer leash this year and in doing so, the Latvian Gangbanger (h/t Michael Rapaport) is thriving and will continue to thrive for the foreseeable future.

When Porzingis gets the green light to set screens above the 3-point line, it shows the Knicks have confidence in him to make the correct read once he inevitably receives the reversal pass from the ball handler.

Kyrie Irving initially makes the right choice to rotate and then oddly (lazily?) backs off. Without hesitation, KP puts the ball on the ground, steps back and drills the open shot. Not bad for a 7’3” NBA sophomore whose barley old enough to celebrate that shot with a drink.

There is one reason to worry about the future of the Knicks as it pertains to Pistons’ basketball:

Me too, Mike, me too.

In their heart, both Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings prefer to initiate offense on their own (another reason full-time Triangle won’t work). When they do, Rose will look to finish on his own while Jennings will (moreso) find open teammates. Early on, Porzingis has been the beneficiary of a handful of Jennings’ drives.

On a side note - I can’t think of too many other examples of players who fans 180’d their opinion on more than Detroit did with Jennings. I will never forget that San Antonio buzzer beater.

Lineup Projection

New York

Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, Carmelo Anthony, Joakim Noah, Kristaps Porzingis


Ish Smith, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond

Injury report: Reggie Jackson (knee, hand)


I don’t think the Knicks are the dumpster fire most of the national media makes them out to be; Carmelo is still an incredible offensive talent and what’s not to like about Porzingis? Derrick Rose isn’t Derrick Rose but he’s still Derrick Rose. Joakim Noah isn’t Joakim Noah but he’s still Joakim Noah. Courtney Lee is, well, he’s just Courtney Lee.

That said, Detroit should win this game. Even with Reggie Jackson out, this is the type of game in which the continuity of the players and coaching staff pays off. Plus, the Pistons are simply more talented.

If you took: 2011 Derrick Rose, 2014 Joakim Noah, any Carmelo variation, 2016 Porzingis and 1993 Patrick Ewing, I’d give the advantage to the visitors. But as I’m writing, that sort of technology/time machine hasn’t been released yet.*

Knicks 94

Pistons 104

Community Question

Earlier I noted my favorite Brandon Jennings Piston memory, whats yours?

* I reserve the right to change my prediction should such technology become available before tip off.