New York — In one of the world’s greatest entertainment venues, the Pistons had a chance to resuscitate their flailing season. With a playoff spot still within their grasp in the final three weeks of the season, they had a chance to right things, with a win over the struggling New York Knicks.
No defense. No victory. And maybe, no playoffs.
The Pistons looked as listless Monday as they did in dropping their last three games — all to teams with losing records — for their seventh loss in the last two seasons in New York between the Knicks and Brooklyn Nets combined.
The loss could be a death knell on their season, a gruesome 109-95 defeat to the Knicks before a sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden.
It’s the seventh loss in the last eight games overall for the Pistons, who fell 1½ games behind the Miami Heat — whom they play Tuesday night at The Palace — for the eighth position in the East.
The Pistons (34-40) have eight games remaining and aren’t mathematically eliminated, but with the deficit and the eye test of their production on the court, it’s an uphill climb, at best.
“Our guys fought even when we got way down, we fought. We were just bad,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We’re in one of those stretches where even the things we have done well: run back on defense and take care of the ball, we didn’t do either one of them tonight.”
All five starters scored in double figures, led by Marcus Morris, who had 20 points; Ish Smith added 15 points, six rebounds and five assists and Andre Drummond 10 points and 15 rebounds.
The Pistons played without Reggie Jackson, who was a late scratch because of rest. Van Gundy didn’t rule out shutting Jackson down for the remainder of the season, as he hasn’t completely recovered from knee tendinitis treatments he got in the preseason.
With Jackson out, the Pistons relied on veteran Beno Udrih, who had five turnovers in seven minutes in the second quarter.
After falling behind, 64-59, at halftime, the Pistons were scoreless for the first 7:10 of the third quarter, as the Knicks (28-46) opened with the first 15 points of the period and the Pistons missed their first 10 field-goal attempts.
“They held us to zero for the first seven minutes — that was the game right there,” Van Gundy said. “The game was (over) when we had that spurt of turnovers in second quarter after playing a pretty good first quarter offensively.
“We ended up with 11 (turnovers) at the half and the start of the third quarter, where we didn’t score for over seven minutes — that’s the ballgame.”
The Pistons had one of their better efforts offensively in the first quarter, starting off hitting 57 percent (13-of-23) from the field and from 3-point range (4-of-7) in the first quarter. But like many times this season, their defense didn’t match the offensive intensity, allowing the Knicks (28-46) to hit 67 percent in the first period.
The Knicks’ trio of Derrick Rose (27 points), Kristaps Porzingis (25) and Carmelo Anthony (21) combined for 73 points.
“Defensively, there were too many little mistakes that bit us and gave them easy baskets,” Drummond said. “We really are frustrated at the things that are going on; we need to regroup.”
Morris opened the game with a 3-pointer and Tobias Harris (12 points) added a pair of free throws for a 5-0 lead. Drummond was engaged and involved on both ends of the court early, with eight points and six rebounds in the opening quarter.
The Pistons went up, 21-14, after Morris was fouled on a 3-pointer and made two of the free throws and took their largest lead, 24-16, after a 3-pointer by Smith.
The Knicks scored the next eight points, on a drive by Courtney Lee, a dunk by Willy Hernangomez (15 points), and jumpers by Rose and Anthony, tying it at 24 at the 3:58 mark. The Pistons boosted the lead back to six in the final minute, but the Knicks got two more free throws from Porzingis and a jumper from Rose to cut the lead to 36-34.
After a 36-point quarter, the Pistons managed just 38 points in the second and third periods combined, with 23 points in the second period — for a 64-59 lead at halftime. A 25-15 Knicks advantage pushed the lead to 15 heading into the final period.
The Pistons had an 11-0 run early in the fourth quarter, trimming the lead to single digits, 94-85, with 5:26 left, but the Knicks got a lay-in from Rose and a dunk by Porzingis to keep the lead safe.