AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — In his second game back in the starting lineup, Tobias Harris lifted the Detroit Pistons with a stellar first half.
Harris scored 23 of his 28 points in the first two quarters, when the Pistons took control with a fast start on their way to a 112-92 victory over the New York Knicks on Saturday night. Andre Drummond added 24 points and 15 rebounds for the Pistons, who came out strong after an emotional win over Cleveland on Thursday night.
“Obviously, the game plan for us was to get out and get stops, keep the ball running,” Harris said. “A great win for us to keep it rolling.”
Harris was a regular starter at the beginning of the season, but Detroit struggled badly toward the end of December, and coach Stan Van Gundy shuffled the lineup a bit. The game against Cleveland this week was the first start for Harris since Jan. 21.
The Pistons have had some issues with slow starts lately, but they raced out to an 18-point lead in the first quarter against New York. Harris finished the period with 11 points.
The Pistons are 12-6 since the start of February, and they’ve boosted their postseason hopes in the process.
“We’re not good all the time, but it’s not a group that quits,” Van Gundy said. “It’s a high-character group. We’ve said that for two years. That’s been a conscious thing we’ve tried to build.”
New York trailed 66-53 at halftime and 89-81 after three quarters, and Detroit had little trouble closing out the game. Reggie Jackson had 19 points and eight assists for the Pistons.
Kristaps Porzingis scored 18 points for the Knicks, who had six players in double figures but lost for the fourth time in five games. New York looks increasingly unlikely to make a run to a postseason berth.
“We still have more games,” guard Derrick Rose said. “It’s tough, but we’re trying to stay together and give ourselves a chance. But coming out and playing the way we did in the first half, it’s a letdown.”
The Pistons pulled within a half-game of Indiana for the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference. They’re also trying to hold off Milwaukee, Chicago and Miami, all of which entered the day within a game of Detroit.
Carmelo Anthony scored 13 points and attempted only nine shots from the field. The Knicks were outscored by 21 with him on the floor.
“We were just kind of taking what they were giving us, and just trying to play the right way in this system,” Anthony said.
Coach Jeff Hornacek said he’d obviously like Anthony to have more shots.
“Yeah, he’s our best scorer,” Hornacek said. “Carmelo’s playing the right way. When he’s open and had opportunities, we’ve got to make sure he gets it.”
The Pistons have 11 games between March 14-31, then won’t play again until April 5. That stretch has already caught Van Gundy’s sarcastic attention.
“We play 11 games in 18 days, and then we get four days off after that,” he said. “So we couldn’t have spaced those out at all. We had to cram everything in and then, like, go on vacation and take another All-Star break. The league didn’t do us really any favors there.”
Knicks: New York trailed 35-23 after one quarter, although Chasson Randle ended the period by making a shot from around midcourt . … The Knicks shot 13 of 30 from 3-point range.
Pistons: Detroit outscored the Knicks 50-26 in the paint. … Jackson was 4 of 6 from beyond the arc.
Knicks: Visit the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday night, wrapping up a stretch in which they’ll have played six of seven on the road.
Pistons: Visit the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night. Detroit rallied to beat Cleveland 106-101 on Thursday.