Auburn Hills — The Pistons weren’t going to beat the New York Knicks at their own game Monday night at the Palace, no matter how hard they tried.
And they did try for a while, letting Carmelo Anthony & Co. have a little fun before finally buckling down and sending the Knicks’ traveling circus on its way with a seventh consecutive loss.
That was thanks in large part to how hard Andre Drummond, their 20-year-old man-child in the middle, tried Monday, grabbing a career-high 26 rebounds to go with a team-high 17 points in the Pistons’ 96-85 victory over the stumbling, bumbling Knicks.
It was Drummond who sounded despondent after his team’s loss Saturday night in Houston, where the Rockets did whatever they pleased in building an insurmountable lead. The Pistons’ youngest player called it “frustrating to watch,” and after a second-half rally came up well short, he added, “It hurts. We take that to heart."
Well, he certainly did. And for a team that still insists its playoff hopes are alive, Drummond certainly showed some life Monday, rejecting capitulation almost as violently as he did the Knicks’ Tyson Chandler twice in the first half. Once as the 7-footer went up for a dunk with the game’s first shot attempt, and then again on the break in a pivotal moment with 1:59 left.
“That play is really what got us going,” Drummond said of the latter block, which was followed soon after by another on Anthony.
And once the rest of the Pistons joined him, the knuckleheads from New York started packing it in, as you’d expect.
Team in disarray
The Knicks came in having lost nine of their last 10 games and 12 of 14 since January. After a third straight nationally-televised loss Sunday Chicago – the Knicks trailed by as many 25 in each game -- Anthony called his own team’s effort “embarrassing.” Monday night, he told reporters, "I'm kind of running out of comments to talk to you guys about.”
Understandably, then, the talk in New York already has turned to the offseason demolition plans for the roster.
"I think that is something we're all gonna have to consider,” Chandler, when asked about a potential rebuilding plan.
For those who consider this a lost season in Detroit as well -- and there aren’t many who don’t at this point -- this was not a particularly productive night.
The Pistons showed again what a mess they can be offensively, shooting 34 percent from the field in the first half, with more turnovers (11) than assists (eight). Mr. Inefficiency, Josh Smith, needed 17 shots to score his 15 points Monday, while Greg Monroe barely touched the ball early, then struggled to finish late.
Meanwhile, in what passes for a playoff chase in the Eastern Conference, Detroit remains three games behind Atlanta for the eighth spot, stuck in no-man’s land with that first-round draft pick of theirs dangling in the balance.
You’ll have to forgive Drummond for not caring one bit about that, though. You have to admire it, too, because it’d be easy for a second-year player to go the other way.
Instead, he's leading the way, in his own way.
we worked on. He was really in his stance tonight, I thought. … And he made some real big plays for us in that stretch that kind of separated the game.”
His coach wasn’t the only one to recognize it Monday.
“When Tyson and I got tangled up, Amare (Stoudamire) came over to me and said, ‘It’s gonna be a battle tonight,’” said Drummond, averaging 16.3 points and 20 rebounds in his last three games. “So that made me cool down and realize what I was really up against. Guys are really starting to respect me now. They’re talking to me on the floor.”
How can they not on nights like this? Drummond’s 26 rebounds were the most for a Pistons player since Ben Wallace grabbed 28 in a game in March 2002. And his 46-plus minutes hardly seemed to affect him, which is saying something for a player whose conditioning was an issue a year ago.
“It’s the adrenaline flowing,” Drummond said, shrugging off the workload. “I feel it. I wasn’t tired the whole game. Like the Energizer bunny, I just kept going.”
Nobody knows where this team is headed. But it’s encouraging to see Drummond’ is marching to his own beat, at least.