Garden party: Pistons leap-frog Knicks with big rally
New York — The Pistons were facing some daunting numbers before their matchup against the Knicks even started.
They had lost four straight at Madison Square Garden and they were 3-14 on the second game of back-to-backs last season. After Friday night’s loss against the Washington Wizards, they were right back in that situation.
Near the end of the second quarter, things looked to be following a familiar script, with the Knicks streaking out to a 21-point advantage.
The Pistons answered with a 28-16 surge in the third quarter, moved ahead in the fourth and took a 111-107 victory over the Knicks on Saturday night.
Tobias Harris had 31 points and Andre Drummond 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Pistons, who won for the first time at Madison Square Garden since April 15, 2015.
“All throughout last year, we weren’t a good team on the road. We were able to fight them off (tonight),” said Harris, who had 12 points in the fourth quarter. “We didn’t get discouraged. The third quarter came and we defended; we were able to make shots on that end but the biggest thing was the defense.”
The Pistons (2-1) regained the lead, 81-80, on a jumper by Harris to start the final period. They took a three-point lead later in the period on a dunk by Drummond off a nifty pass from Jon Leuer and Leuer converted a floater on the next possession. That sparked a 9-2 run, ending with a 3-pointer by Harris.
The Knicks (0-2) stayed close with a flurry of 3-pointers: two by Tim Hardaway Jr. (14 points) and another by Kristaps Porzingis (33 points and five rebounds) to take a 99-96 lead.
Harris answered with another 3-pointer to tie it and Avery Bradley’s 3-pointer with 3:14 left made it a 102-101 lead, and the Knicks never led again. Porzingis split a pair of free throws to tie it at 102, but Reggie Jackson (16 points, seven assists) had a three-point play with 1:41 left.
The Pistons seized control in the final minute, with a spinning jumper by Harris and four free throws by Jackson to put the game away.
Porzingis dominated the first half with 23 points, after the Pistons started with Stanley Johnson (nine points, eight rebounds) to defend him — an eight-inch differential favoring Porzingis — and went through all four power forwards, before Anthony Tolliver finally had some success in slowing him down, holding him to 3-of-10 from the field in the final two periods.
“He’s 7-foot-3 with crazy-long arms, athleticism; he can shoot and dribble,” Tolliver said. “At the end of the day, in those situations, I go into it like I have nothing to lose. I’m going to go in there, play hard and make it as tough as possible with him.
“He’s tall and kind of skinny, so I try to use my advantages: strength and physicality and try to get underneath him and make it as tough as possible and deny him the ball – if he doesn’t have the ball, he can’t score.”
Van Gundy started the third quarter with Tolliver over Johnson, hoping to capitalize on the momentum — and it worked, as the defense picked up and they cut into the deficit.
After the Knicks pushed their lead to 57-36 following a three-point play by Enes Knater, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds, the Pistons were in their largest hole in the game. Drummond followed with a three-point play and then a tip-in, cutting the lead to 64-51 at halftime.
“Basketball is a momentum game and it carries over,” Tolliver said. “Coach put me in to see if I could bring a spark and that is what I tried to do. That is what I did. Whenever you play with confidence in this game, good things happen.”