Knicks 128, Pistons 104
NEW YORK (AP)
Outclassed and embarrassed two nights earlier, the New York Knicks desperately needed more athleticism.
They found it in Bill Walker
``That's just natural ability,'' Walker said. ``I've always been able to do that.''
Tracy McGrady used to, and he showed some flashes of his old form Wednesday night.
It added up to an easy victory, as Walker scored a career-high 22 points in his first career start, and New York handed the Detroit Pistons their fifth straight loss with a 128-104 victory.
Humiliated while trailing by as much as 49 points in a loss at Cleveland on Monday, New York was the team having fun this time, enjoying a rare rout after a series of dunks and 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter.
Much of it came from Walker, who was stuck behind All-Stars in Boston and spent parts of the last two seasons in the NBA Development League before the Knicks acquired him at the trade deadline.
``I always thought I could play on this type of level,'' Walker said. ``It just took a while for me to get the opportunity.''
Al Harrington scored 26 for the Knicks, who won for just the second time in 12 games and clinched the season series for the first time since the 2000-01 season.
David Lee had 21 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists. McGrady, still playing his way into shape after missing most of season recovering from knee surgery, finished with 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds as the Knicks shot 55 percent from the field.
``Today was one of those days where I actually felt like my old self as far as my movements and my timing and everything, my rhythm,'' McGrady said. ``I felt like I had another step.''
Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey each scored 16 points for the Pistons.
With Wilson Chandler (personal reasons) out again, the Knicks put the newly acquired Walker into the lineup for some much-needed size and athleticism. Harrington also started, with McGrady moving to point guard and Sergio Rodriguez coming off the bench.
The result was a comfortable lead for most of the game. The Pistons got within nine points early in the fourth, but the Knicks ran off nine straight points, highlighted by Walker's three-point play, to blow it open at 109-91. Harrington hit a couple of 3s later in the period, and Walker capped it off with a windmill dunk with 53 seconds to go.
And the defense was better after the Knicks had surrendered 122 points per game while dropping its last two.
``We lost our edge tonight, there's no question about it, and I was disappointed, because we've been playing some pretty good basketball up until tonight. And give them credit, they made shots,'' Detroit coach John Kuester said. ``We did not play with the type of intensity we have in the past.''
Despite the Knicks' struggles, coach Mike D'Antoni continues to insist the Knicks were right to avoid making any minor upgrades last summer and instead protect the loads of salary cap space they have in hopes of making a big splash in July.
The Pistons are the example the Knicks can't afford to follow. Detroit used the money it freed up in last season's franchise-altering, Chauncey Billups-Allen Iverson deal to sign Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, good players who aren't even starters.
``I don't want to point them out, but we don't want to get stuck in mediocrity and we could have done that,'' D'Antoni said before the game. ``We could've put a Band-Aid on some holes and be more competitive and right now that seems like a good idea, even to me, because we have to go through this. But this summer would not have been a good idea.''
They did get McGrady and Walker in separate deals at the trade deadline, and both played a big role Wednesday.
McGrady made a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to make it a 12-point game late in the first, and the Knicks took a 33-23 lead to the second.
Detroit tied it at 39 on Richard Hamilton's 3-pointer, but Harrington answered with a 3 on the other end to trigger a 20-4 burst that gave the Knicks a 59-43 advantage on Walker's dunk with 4 minutes left in the half. They were ahead 67-55 at the break.
The Knicks had been overwhelmed on the boards in recent games, but the Pistons were as small as they were. They were without starting center and top rebounder Ben Wallace, who missed a game for the first time this season after injuring his right knee in Tuesday's loss to Boston, and were outrebounded 44-41.
NOTES: Wallace's injury left Stuckey as the only Detroit player to appear in all 61 games this season. ... The Knicks wore ``Nueva York'' jerseys and will do so again Saturday against New Jersey as part of the Noche Latina ``Latin Night'' program that nine NBA teams are participating in this month.