Pistons fall short to Knicks, drop to 1-6 on road
New York — The Jekyll and Hyde act continues for the Pistons.
After snapping their winless streak away from The Palace, it seemed the Pistons may have found an answer for the road woes.
But on Wednesday night, the Pistons were left searching for a way to keep the New York Knicks off the glass and slow down forward Kristaps Porzingis.
They never found a solution as Porzingis poured in a career-high 35 points and the Pistons’ late surge came up short in a 105-102 loss at Madison Square Garden, dropping their road record to 1-6.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 21 and had a chance to send the game to overtime but missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds for the Pistons (6-6), who were outrebounded, 52-40.
Tobias Harris had 19 points and 10 rebounds, Jon Leuer added 17 points and nine rebounds off the bench, Andre Drummond scored 15 after missing a game with a right ankle sprain, and Ish Smith had 14 points and eight assists.
Carmelo Anthony scored 22, Derrick Rose 15 and Joakim Noah had seven points and 15 rebounds for the Knicks (5-6).
“(Defense and rebounding) was terrible,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “As I said to them afterward, we'll be able to go and look at 10 or 12 that were just lack of effort plays, lack of focus plays. You can't afford that on the road and we continue to do that.
“Noah killed us on the glass. Porzingis was obviously fabulous and that's what everybody is going to talk about and Carmelo was good. But I thought Noah, his effort dominated the game. He kicked our butts on the glass. He was great defensively. Then Rose made some great plays down the stretch, too.”
After the Pistons fell behind by double digits in the third quarter, Caldwell-Pope did his best to keep the Pistons in it. He hit a pair of 3-pointers late in the third before Leuer, Marcus Morris and Harris combined for a 7-0 run to make it 81-76 with 10:55 left.
The Pistons continued to chip away as Beno Udrih and Drummond each hit a free throw to cut it to nine, but Justin Holiday grabbed an offensive rebound and Anthony hit a backbreaking 3-pointer for 94-82 Knicks’ lead with 6:56 left.
Yet Pistons didn’t go away. They used a 7-0 run on a Morris 3-pointer, Caldwell-Pope layup and two Harris free throws to make it a two-possession game at 94-89 roughly a minute later.
Then after Porzingis appeared to deliver the dagger by splitting a pair of technical foul free throws and burying a 3-pointer to give the Knicks a 100-89 lead with 4:33 left, the Pistons battled back with back-to-back 3-pointers by Caldwell-Pope and Smith to make it 104-102 with 31 seconds left.
"We just got some consecutive stops in a row for the first time in the game,” Harris said. “We got a couple in a row and kept going with it, but we need that approach in first quarter, first half. We got to put a full game playing that way and we would've walked out of here with a win."
On the Knicks’ ensuing possession, Anthony missed a 20-footer but the Pistons couldn’t come up with the ball as Courtney Lee grabbed a critical offensive rebound. However, Rose gave the Pistons hope after splitting a pair of free throws to give the Knicks a three-point lead with three seconds left.
The Pistons had a chance to tie it but Caldwell-Pope’s 3-pointer drew back iron on the final possession.
“We were looking for what we got, a three. We needed it to take it into overtime and we executed the play well and got a great shot,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I had a great look, great release. It just didn’t go down.”
After the Pistons jumped out to an 8-3 lead less than four minutes into the game, Porzingis got into a groove early with a driving layup to tie it at 11 and a 3-pointer for a 16-14 lead with 4:48 left in the first.
Neither team could get much separation until the Pistons’ bench got to work in the second. Udrih, Stanley Johnson and Leuer each hit a jumper to open the quarter with a 6-0 spurt to grab a 33-29 lead at the 10:00 mark.
Porzingis answered with a 10-2 run of his own that started with back-to-back jumpers, included a three-point play on an alley-oop from Brandon Jennings and ended with a 3-pointer to give the Knicks a 39-35 advantage with 7:28 left in second.
Drummond and Smith combined to score six straight points to cut it to one at the 2:00 mark, but Porzingis rattled off six points on four free throws and jumper to give the Knicks a 54-49 lead at halftime.
"(Porzingis) got it going,” Harris said. “He got some baskets from pretty much everywhere. He got in a good rhythm and we weren't able to put a stop to that. You got to give him credit. He had a really good night and he pushed them."
The deficit quickly grew in the third as the Knicks opened with an 8-2 run keyed by back-to-back 3-pointers by Lee and Anthony to put the Pistons in a 64-53 hole at the 9:30 mark.
The Pistons fought back with a 6-0 spurt to cut it to single digits less than two minutes later but couldn’t hold on. The Knicks responded with seven straight points, including a Porzingis dunk, to push ahead 71-59 with 5:20 left in the third, setting the stage for a frantic finish and ultimately another road loss.
“Really, we’re just not carrying what we have done at home on the road,” Caldwell-Pope said, “and we have to find a way to do that.”