The Golden State Warriors appeared to be fading as they seek their first playoff appearance in six years. If their last game is any indication, though, they haven't completely lost the edge that made them look like a serious contender in the Western Conference for most of the season.
Wednesday night's matchup with visiting Detroit seems to set up favorably for the Warriors, as the Pistons - already caught in a tailspin - will likely be without starting point guard Brandon Knight.
The Warriors surprised the league with an impressive 30-17 start, but they've had trouble replicating that success. They lost 12 of 17 before Monday's dominant 92-63 home win over New York embodied what coach Mark Jackson has preached to his team all year: defense and rebounding.
Golden State is 27-8 when holding opponents under 100 points and 28-9 when outrebounding foes. But Monday was a rare combination of dominance as the Warriors (36-29) held the Knicks to 27.4 percent shooting, the lowest figure in the NBA this season, while also claiming a 59-42 rebounding advantage.
"That's a heck of a defensive night," Jackson said.
Detroit (23-43), which has lost six straight and nine of 10 after falling 103-90 at Utah on Monday, could have trouble matching Golden State on the boards. The Pistons have been outrebounded in 10 of their last 12 games.
Scoring could become a bigger challenge for the already offensively challenged Pistons, who average 94.3 points. Knight, second on the team with 13.8 points per game, is listed as doubtful after spraining his left ankle against the Jazz.
X-rays were negative, but the Pistons may still be without him for some time.
"The only thing I know is that it is not broke," said Brian Hill, who has coached Detroit for the last four games with Lawrence Frank away from the team to be with his ill wife.
"We will have to get more diagnosis than that, but it appears to be a very severe sprain right now."
The loss of Knight is another significant hit as the Pistons already lost leading shot blocker Andre Drummond to a fractured tailbone last month. Without Knight, Detroit could use better production from fellow guard Rodney Stuckey, who is averaging 4.9 points on 36.4 shooting over his last seven games.
Drummond's absence could make it even more difficult to slow down David Lee, who is averaging 20.4 points and 12.3 rebounds while shooting 57.1 percent in his last seven against the Pistons.
Lee missed Golden State's 103-93 home loss to Milwaukee on Saturday because of a bruised right knee but returned to finish with 21 points and 10 rebounds against the Knicks for his league-leading 42nd double-double.
The Warriors claimed a 104-97 victory in these teams' first matchup Dec. 5, their fourth win in five meetings. Klay Thompson scored a game-high 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting for Golden State.
Knight was limited to four points on 1-of-9 shooting with four turnovers.