The Detroit Pistons were able to cut a 22-point second-half deficit to 5 behind strong bench play, but the team’s anemic offense and complete lack of size eventually allowed the New York Knicks to prevail 105-91 Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Pistons simply had no answer for the size of Mitchell Robinson off of New York’s bench who feasted on putbacks and lobs. Robinson finished the night with 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting, 14 rebounds and three blocks.
Kemba Walker, who until recently was completely out of New York’s rotation scored 21 points as did Julius Randle whose size bothered Detroit on the interior and the perimeter where he was able to get to his spots and shoot over his defender.
The Pistons offense struggled all night, and went through long stretches of doing absolutely nothing on the floor. Detroit ended the first quarter missing 11 of its final 12 shots, and allowed New York to begin the third quarter on an 11-0 run thanks to Detroit starting the second half 1-of-8.
It was another off night for Saddiq Bey (5-of-19 overall and 3-of-13 from deep) and Cade Cunningham (2-of-13). Cade was able to compensate with eight assists and nine rebounds, but again committed some ugly turnovers and had five for the game.
It was Detroit’s bench that actually was able to make a game of it. Trey Lyles and Saben Lee combined for 29 points and helped trim New York’s lead from 22 to five late in the third. But Detroit inevitably started missing shots and Kemba Walker and Robinson were able to put the game away.
Detroit, already short-handed, but was missing starting point guard Killian Hayes’ tonight to a non-COVID illness. Cory Joseph started in his place and played admirably from the offensive end helping steady a very creaky offensive attack. Joseph scored 15 points and hit all three of his treys. But the Pistons really missed Hayes’ defensive pressure and size.
Walker, who got roasted on defense against Saben Lee in the second half, was able to pretty easily score all night against Joseph and Frank Jackson. Evan Fournier had a game-high 22 points thanks to some extremely lackadaisical defense from Detroit.
The Pistons shot just 36% from the floor and 24% from 3. The Pistons had just 37 points after the first half, and that is typically way too big a hole for any team to climb out of. The Pistons aren’t going to be a competitive team on almost any night until they are able to address their lack of size and lack of efficient scoring.
Is that something that can be solved this season? How much can Jerami Grant and Kelly Olynyk, both out for extended periods with injury, really help? How ugly can it get if they are traded for draft assets?
A lot of questions, and few good answers, it seems.