Mudiay leading Knicks’ charge against Pistons
Mudiay has been instrumental in the team’s last two victories. He scored 15 of his season-high 27 points in the fourth quarter against New Orleans on Friday, then converted a pivotal transition dunk and free throw in a 103-98 road victory over Memphis on Sunday.
Mudiay will try to keep the hot hand going when the Knicks play at Detroit on Tuesday night. New York (7-14) has won three straight after a 4-14 start.
“It was ferocious, it was the stamp on it,” coach David Fizdale said of Mudiay’s dunk. “The exclamation point. He wanted to bring it home so bad. It was a big-time basketball play.”
Mudiay is averaging 16 points over the last six games while shooting 53 percent from the field.
The Knicks acquired the seventh overall pick in the 2015 draft from Denver in a three-team deal just before last season’s trade deadline.
Fizdale, the team’s first-year coach, believes the 22-year-old’s improvement is more emotional than physical.
“He has my total confidence,” Fizdale told the New York Post and other media outlets. “A big part of his deal, can I rebuild that? It wasn’t a lot of stuff we had to tinker with in his game – maybe his (perimeter) shot a little bit but it was his spirit. I’m proud of the way he’s leading the first group.”
Fizdale’s team is building confidence during its mini-winning streak but it will face another team that’s feeling good about itself. The Pistons have won four of their last five, including a 118-107 victory over Phoenix on Sunday. They outscored the Suns 35-23 in the fourth quarter.
“We fell into this ‘you score, I score’ mentality,” coach Dwane Casey said. “As soon as we got a little bit of defensive aggressiveness and toughness into the game that helped us out, plus taking care of the ball.”
The Pistons also got a major boost from their reserves, who contributed 47 points. Casey wants his starters to show more energy on Tuesday when his club plays the third of six consecutive home games.
“They did a good job and they were ready to play,” Casey said of the second unit. “It’s something about these afternoon games that we’ve got to drink some coffee in the morning, wake up a little bit earlier, have a 6 o’clock in the morning shootaround, something to get us going. No matter what time of day it is, our playing personality has to be ready to play. Come out ready to play, come out hard and play aggressive, we didn’t do that in the first half and we made it hard on ourselves.”
An old problem may have resurfaced on Sunday. Andre Drummond had another big game with 19 points, 16 rebounds and five steals but he missed seven of eight free throw attempts. The Suns intentionally fouled him in the fourth quarter while trying to rally back and Drummond sat out during crunch time.
Drummond improved his foul shooting from a ghastly 38.6 percent during the 2016-17 season to 60.5 percent last season. He’s dropped to 51.1 percent this season and could face more ‘Hack-A-Dre’ tactics if he continues to misfire.