AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The New York Knicks are not a great matchup for the Detroit Pistons, even without Carmelo Anthony.
Add in the fact that the Pistons were without Greg Monroe (sore left ankle) and Charlie Villanueva (sore left hamstring), and are still missing Andre Drummond (stress fracture in lower back) and it could have been a lot worse.
Jason Maxiell, all 6-foot-7 of him, had to start at center opposite Tyson Chandler, who’s 7-foot-1.
Jonas Jerebko, who has spent the bulk of the season on the bench collecting DNP-CDs (did not play-coach’s decision), had to make his first start of the season at power forward.
When Amar’e Stoudemire came off the bench, he scored 17 points in his first 11 minutes on the floor.
“He’s a tough opponent, he’s very physical,” Jerebko said. “He’s got a few pounds on me but I tried. But it’s a team effort. I can’t stop a guy like that one-on-one. I think we did a decent job. The ball just didn’t bounce our way there in the third, end of the third. They made some 3s and JR (Smith) got hot. So tough game.”
With Jerebko starting, the only big man left on the bench was rookie Viacheslav Kravtsov.
The Pistons made a game of it, taking a 10-point lead in the third quarter, but watched that lead evaporate in a barrage of Knicks’ three-pointers.
Raymond Felton made two and J.R. Smith had four late in the third quarter in the 87-77 victory over the Pistons. The Pistons are 0-4 against the Knicks this season.
“That’s kind of been the thing with New York all the times that we played them, their ability to hit big threes,” Brandon Knight said. “They rely a lot on that shot and it got them back in the game (Wednesday) and eventually pushed them over the hump.”
With so few big guys, the Pistons could not keep up in rebounding either, getting out-rebounded 48-36.
“We missed getting out to a couple three-point shooters because we had to bump Chandler on the roll (to the basket). We missed what we call a weak-side sink where Max has to go and help on dribble penetration and get off Chandler’s body, and now a small has to sink back in and try to box out Chandler,” said assistant coach Brian Hill, filling in for Lawrence Frank, who was out with a personal matter. “We gave up two or three offensive rebounds in that stretch, one was a dunk, one was a kick-out to a three. Whether fatigue was a factor or we just, we tried and we just weren’t good enough.”
The Knicks are 37-21 and the Pistons are 23-40, so Hill was absolutely correct — they’re just not good enough right now, and they’re certainly not good enough when a few of their top players are out with injuries.
The Pistons have 19 games left in the season and it’s safe to say that they’re not making the playoffs at this point.
So they’re going to have to hope that the NBA Draft Lottery is kind to them, that the ping-pong balls go their way and they’re able to draft a future star.
That’s what the Pistons are desperately in need of is stars.
Drummond looked like he might become one before he got hurt and hopefully he’ll recover in time to get some more experience this season.
President of basketball operations Joe Dumars also has to find some players in free agency to add to the young core.
Because the Knicks showed Wednesday night that these Pistons are just not good enough yet.