Imperfect Pistons top Knicks 115-108; perfect so far on home stand

By Matt Schoch
Special to The Detroit News

Detroit — Halfway through the longest home stand of the season, the Pistons are perfect in the win column.

But not without their faults.

The Pistons won their third straight game on Tuesday, topping the youthful New York Knicks, 115-108, at Little Caesars Arena. It was Detroit’s seventh win in the last nine games.

With the win, Detroit is 11-7, equaling their 4-0 start for the most games over .500 this season.

BOX SCORE: Pistons 115, Knicks 108

Blake Griffin had 30 points, and Stanley Johnson had 21 points off the bench. Reggie Jackson had 21 points, including 17 in the first half.

While Griffin has credited the home crowd for lifting the Pistons to emotional overtime victories this season against Philadelphia and Houston, Tuesday was a quiet atmosphere as the announced crowd of 13,935 fans went through the motions against the downtrodden Knicks.

More:Tim Hardaway Sr. proud of son's leadership for Knicks

More:Andre Drummond working to prevent more 'Hack-a-Dre'

“When we have a great crowd, it’s night and day,” Griffin said. “We have to give them a product that they can be proud of. This is a fan base that, I think, has high standards, and we need to meet those.”

The Pistons are 7-3 at home with games Friday against Chicago, Saturday against Golden State and Tuesday against Oklahoma City up next.

Andre Drummond, however, carried over his free-throw woes into another night. His 0-for-4 game from the stripe makes him 1-for-12 (8.3 percent) over the last two games, and 9-for-29 over the last four (31 percent).

A career 38.1 percent shooter entering last season, Drummond improved drastically a year ago. But on Sunday against Phoenix, Drummond saw the "Hack-a-Dre" defense for the first time this season. After the win, he hit the Little Caesars Arena floor for extra free throws, and got more up after practice on Monday.

Scoreless in the first half, Drummond scored his first points on a basket with 8:11 left in the third quarter, netting a season-low six points with 14 rebounds. Eight points was Drummond’s previous season low, the only other time he didn’t score double figures this season.

Detroit also struggled from deep, with 7-of-24 shooting on 3-pointers (29.2 percent), the fifth game this season with seven or fewer three-point makes.

Griffin, who has been vocal on the court with the officials in recent games, got many of the calls to go his way, shooting 12 of 16 on free throws. New York frontcourt players Mario Hezonja, Noah Vanleh and Mitchell Robinson fouled out.

“Blake used his experience in the post and is finally getting some respect in the post that he deserves,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “We have the best officials in the world and they do a great job of officiating the perimeter, but again, not too many teams have post-up players like Blake in the league that demands to see how you’re going to call it.

“Are you going to let them forearm shiver in the back and create the contact? So this is different officiating mindset.”

The Pistons led by as many as 16 points in the second quarter but the Knicks closed the half on a 13-5 run to trail 51-43 at halftime.

New York closed the margin to six points twice in the third quarter, but Griffin had a free throw, a dunk and two assists in the final 1:59 to go to the fourth quarter with an 81-70 lead.

The spurt became a 10-0 run as Johnson had a layup and a free throw early in the fourth quarter, opening an 86-70 lead. The lead later ballooned to as many as 18 points.

The Knicks closed to a 104-96 margin with an 8-0 run with 3:01 to play, but Griffin made four free throws, Johnson made a jumper and he then sealed the game with a hustle play on defense for the win.

Undrafted rookie Allonzo Trier, who had 24 points to lead the Knicks, was going in for a fast-break layup to cut the lead to five points in the final minute when Johnson came from behind for the block before crashing into a baseline cameraman.

After a review, the goaltending call was reversed and the Pistons made free throws to close out the Knicks, who came in on a three-game win streak under first-year coach David Fizdale.

“We had a little bit of a lull there and it kind of puts a damper on a win,” Casey said. “Because you always want to develop good habits. When you have the lead and the way you play it: You don’t take shortcuts, you don’t take things for granted, and you never want to put a damper on a win.”

Tim Hardaway Jr. (Michigan) had 19 points, Damyean Dotson had 17 points, and Enes Kanter added 16 points and 14 rebounds for New York (7-15),  which won at Boston, against New Orleans and at Memphis in its win streak. The win against the Grizzlies was the first game back for Fizdale since being fired by Memphis last season.

Hardaway finished 5-of-15 shooting with six rebounds.

“The ball just wasn’t falling,” Hardaway said. “Some that were contested, some that were shots that Trey (Burke), myself, Zo, and a lot of those guys make out there. We just have to concentrate a lot more.”

His former Michigan teammates did not make an impact as Burke had six points off the bench for the Knicks, and Glenn Robinson III had one point for the Pistons.

The Pistons will be heavy favorites for one more game on Friday against Chicago before Saturday’s home game against Golden State starts a run where Detroit plays nine teams from last season’s playoffs in December’s first 10 games.

Matt Schoch is a freelance writer