The Detroit Pistons were clearly not ready to deal with the New York Knicks’ defense and Julius Randle’s offense, and by the time they got up to speed, it was too late. The Pistons fell 117-104 as Randle had a game-high 42 points, 15 rebounds and four assists.
He was walking into clean jumpers, hitting insane step-backs with a hand in his face, passing out of double teams, and hitting glassers with ease. Randle had the answer no matter what Detroit did, much like he has in Detroit’s three previous losses to New York this season.
The story of the game, Randle aside, was how the Pistons started the first and fourth quarters. Detroit came out a step slow, disinterested in working their way into quality shots, and unprepared to deal with New York’s size.
New York ended the first quarter up 39-22, and it figured to be a laugher. But Detroit managed to fight its way back. The team hit some threes, came up with some timely stops, and scratched and clawed their way back into a competitive contest. A Killian Hayes 3-pointer cut the lead to 62-55, and Detroit trailed by just 10 at the half.
The third quarter was much of the same. The Pistons were hitting 3s and forcing turnovers. They would cut the lead to six or seven, and then the Knicks would have an answer. Saddiq Bey was carrying the majority of the offensive load with Bojan Bogdanovic out with a non-Covid illness. He had 21 points through three quarters, and the Pistons still down just 10 going into the final frame.
Julius Randle, by that point, had 31 points and started the fourth quarter on the bench. The perfect opportunity for Detroit to cut into the lead and steal the momentum. Instead, the Knicks went out to a quick 10-2 run in the first 2:17. The Pistons created a hill too steep to climb, and while they fought back, they lost their last best chance to come away with the victory.
The Pistons were already behind the 8 ball without Bogdanovic and Jalen Duren against New York’s imposing frontline. The Pistons also did not suit up Nerlens Noel against his former team. That left Isaiah Stewart and a lot of small forwards praying they could slow down New York’s attack. The Knicks outrebounded Detroit 52-38, including plus-9 on the offensive boards.
The story of the game was probably the latter half of the fourth quarter after a sizeable delay for a clock malfunction. It was a story of two teams taking shots that could frustrate a coach or a fan base. Detroit was down eight points with 4:38 to play. Plenty of time to tie the score or even go ahead.
The Pistons probably had the cleaner looks, but their shots wouldn’t go down. The Knicks, meanwhile, had the superior players. So when Julius Randle takes a step-back 3, it has a tendency to go in. When Jaden Ivey dribbles into an open 15-footer, it tends to bounce off the rim and into the other team’s hands. Talent, as it turns out, matters.
If there are any silver linings out of this one, it is a night that Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Livers can come away with happy. Livers’ two-way play was needed, and he finished the night with 11 points, six rebounds, hit three 3s, and was just minus-3 in 39 minutes of action. Bey, who had the unenviable task of slowing down Randle, was a less shiny minus-20, but he had 21 points and hit five three-pointers.
It was a rough night for the Pistons' backcourt until Jaden Ivey was able to put together some scoring in the second half. As with many Ivey games, there was plenty to like and plenty to scratch your head at. He hit a couple of 3s, but took too many (eight). He sometimes played out of control and turned the ball over, and other times he was able to alter his pace and catch defender’s on their back foot for a clean look.
Hayes struggled with his shot, hitting just 4-of-14 shots, but he also whipped the ball all over the court and finished with nine assists to just one turnover. Seeing Hayes confidently rifle a one-armed pass across the court to an open shooter has been a regular occurrence for the Pistons, and you love to see it.
The Pistons next play Chicago in France on Thursday. Hopefully, it can be a big showcase for Killian Hayes in front of his home country. As for this game, I’m thankful Detroit never has to see Randle again this season.