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Pistons vs. Knicks: Marcus Morris outduels Melo in Pistons victory

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He might not have the same amount of endorsement deals or the superstar profile, but on Tuesday night Marcus Morris held his own against Carmelo Anthony.

NBA: New York Knicks at Detroit Pistons Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

A Tuesday game against the New York Knicks in November is, apparently, a tough sell for Detroit fans.

The crowd was preseason thin as team introductions started, and only improved minimally by the time the Pistons and Knicks started the second quarter. put the attendance at a little over 13,000 and that felt a bit generous.

For those 13,000 who made it out to the Palace last night though, there was an exciting basketball duel between Marcus Morris and Carmelo Anthony that will most likely fly under the national radar.

For a stretch of the second quarter, Marcus and Melo took turns going one-on-one against each other, and it was actually Morris who got the better of the 11-time All Star. There was a specific sequence of a fadeaway, a blow-by layup, and a three pointer which we need to examine and appreciate.

First, there was Marcus’s contested fadeaway jumper. Initially, Melo took away the entry pass to the post, but Marcus Morris is a human bulldog and simply swung Carmelo Anthony (who is no small man by any means) like it was a screen door to the back yard and reestablished position. After that, it was Marcus giving Melo some of his own medicine: jab step, dribble, step back, pump to freeze, then fade in the face.


For those of us who play pickup, these are the buckets that you just shake your head at when you see them go in. Carmelo only froze for maybe half a second, and it was all Marcus needed to get the look he needed.

After another Carmelo bucket, Marcus was isolated with him again, the crowd could sense the battle. The initial possession looked similar to the fadeaway, except this time Melo guessed wrong.

You can see Melo adjust his stance to go face up, thinking maybe another post up move from the top of the key. Instead, Marcus uses this adjustment to “blow by” Carmelo for an easy layup. A moment that elicited what I can only describe as “basketball props” from the Palace crowd.

(Sidenote: Granted I’ve only gone to a handful of NBA games outside Detroit, but I will say that we at least know basketball. We know when guys are battling one-on-one and will show respect regardless of which team you’re on. I say this because Derrick Rose got plenty of “oohs” and “ahhs” when he put Ish Smith on skates last night).

Melo responded by forcing a jumper of his own, which quickly led to a rebound, outlet, a beautiful KCP pass and Morris nailing a transition three pointer. Knicks timeout.

Pistons Twitter responded accordingly.

After the timeout, Marcus played to the crowd, jogging down to the baseline by the Knicks bench and motioning to the crowd for more cheers. There might not have been many of us in attendance, but those who were made it sound like a full stadium. He never smiled, never said a word. Just jogged back to the bench for the most serious, stone face looking high fives.

While Carmelo finished the night with 24 points to Marcus’s 22, it took him 18 shots to get that, as opposed to the efficient 14 shots from Morris. Reading the post-game recaps and comments from players, most commented on how fun that battle was to watch, but for Morris it was just another day at the office.

This is why Marcus is the Piston player we need more than anyone else. Not only because of his incredible one-on-one ability, but mostly because of his cultural relevance and connection to this team.

Whether you want to admit or not, this organization has an identity. Pounded into our psyche from the Bad Boys to Going to Work Pistons and all of the hype videos and propaganda surrounding those teams. Even as we’re now an uber-athletic, young team shooting a ton of three pointers and pushing the pace, that identity we still look for as fans is one of toughness and a no flash attitude.

While we love Andre Drummond’s post dunk shimmys, and KCP’s money signs to the crowd, they are not in line with the “Detroit basketball” that has been ingrained in us fans from a young age. Those moments feel different because they are outside of the comfort zone, which doesn’t make them bad or an issue for the team or us as fans. Just different.

Marcus Morris conversely is the comfort zone. He barks at opponents on the floor. He exudes a persona of toughness and no bullshit. He flashes and showboats in moments, and subtlety. We as Detroit fans can point to and say “yeah, this is familiar.”

That Marcus Morris was on full display Tuesday night versus the Knicks, and will be key as the Pistons continue to look at moving up in the Eastern Conference.