Knicks Halt the Soaring Pistons

Jeremy Dreyfuss ’11
Staff Writer 

After scrounging a victory out of the weary Milwaukee Bucks on the road Wednesday, the New York Knicks staggered into The Palace at Auburn Hills the very next day to face the red-hot Detroit Pistons. Coming into this game, the Knicks had lost 11 of their last 12 in Detroit and had a miserable 8-22 record on the road this season. The previous night, the Knicks had won, but in ugly fashion. Milwaukee was playing without team icon Michael Redd, and their young Australian center Andrew Bogut. However, thanks to their six-foot-eleven forward Charlie Villanueva, the Bucks were able to tally 112 points against the poor Knick defense. Villanueva scored a total of 32 points as the Knicks also exhibited poor ball-handling with a whopping 20 turnovers.

However, backed by 39 points from recently-acquired shooting guard Larry Hughes, the Knicks were able to beat the Milwaukee Bucks, who clung to the last spot in the Eastern Conference for the playoffs. Detroit, the Pistons cruised to a 114-96 victory thanks to solid effort from shooting guard Richard Hamilton. After a poor start to the season, Hamilton spent most of his time on the bench. However, the back injury of Allen Iverson provided the opening that Hamilton needed. He charged right into action. Following this opportunity, Hamilton has been the catalyst in giving the Pistons new life in a season that has been the Pistons’ worst in several years. The former Uconn star has been averaging nearly 26 points-per-game in his last 6 games. His scoring and leadership have caused Detroit to surge in their last 6 games, going 5-1.

Thursday’s meeting between the Knicks and Pistons tipped off in a predictable fashion. As the second and third quarter dragged on, Knick players Larry Hughes and Al Harrington began settling for poor outside shots. The lack of intensity and lack of offensive consistency allowed the Pistons to build a 10-point lead by the end of the third quarter over the sluggish Knicks. New York needed a sparkplug that would help revive them with intensity and aggressiveness. Their answer, as always, was Nate Robinson.

Coming off the bench firing in the fourth quarter, Robinson exploded with 14 of his 32 points coming in the fourth. His quick and strong penetrations to the basket allowed the Knicks to scrape back into the game, while getting the Pistons into foul trouble. Providing strong aid was consistent forward David Lee, who scored 16 points and hauled in 18 rebounds. David Lee currently leads the league in double-doubles with 52. Despite the eruption of Robinson and aggressive rebounding by Lee, the Pistons did not immediately surrender. Along with Richard Hamilton, former Knicks forward Antonio McDyess hit several key shots in the fourth for Detroit, collecting 21 points and a season-high 22 rebounds.

It was a deadlock battle as the Knicks trailed by 3 with 15 seconds left in regulation. Larry Hughes strode up the court looking for a game-tying three-pointer. As he approached the three-point line, he stuttered and finally hoisted an awkward shot over a tripping Richard Hamilton. The shot missed wide right, but not before Hamilton collapsed onto the shooting Hughes. Hamilton, stunned, was a called for a foul and gave Hughes a chance to tie the game at 111 with three free throws. Looking past the jumble of banging noise-makers behind the basket, Hughes hit all three shots, sending the game into overtime. “I didn’t want to hold it until the last second and let them set up their defense,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Larry’s a very smart basketball player, and did a great job.

Using the momentum of Hughes’ clutch performance, the Knicks sprinted into the fourth quarter showing offensive discipline and defensive pressure. Their discipline was shown primarily through their unprecedented two turnovers in the entire game, setting a franchise record. Knicks guard Wilson Chandler blanketed the nimble Richard Hamilton, also recording a pivotal steal at the end of overtime that would seal the game.

Overtime was the stage for an unlikely hero in the form of Knicks forward Quentin Richardson. Sitting out regularly in the past few weeks, Richardson has been bothered by a series of injuries and has been lost in shuffles within the Knicks organization. With the great success of Knicks forward Al Harrington and guard Larry Hughes, Richardson has not often been called on. Getting crucial playing time in overtime, however, Quentin responded to the pressure with remarkable offensive confidence. Quentin hit two remarkable shots at the end, the second truly representing the nail in the Pistons’ coffin. New York went on to soar to victory, winning back-to-back road games for the first time all season. Coach D’Antoni, who has transformed this Knicks team into confident and smart basketball players, noted after the game that “It looked like we had no hope, but now we have a little hope,” D’Antoni said. “We just have to keep up this intensity and keep playing this way.”