'Sluggish' Pistons run out of gas in fourth quarter, fall to Knicks for 11th loss in 12 games
New York — In the wake of their worst streak of the season, the Pistons are shorthanded, struggling on both ends of the court and just looking to get a couple of wins to change their fortunes.
The wait continues.
The Pistons faded in the fourth quarter, letting a one-point deficit to the struggling New York Knicks entering the final period balloon into an 11-point bulge midway through the quarter.
The result was a 96-84 loss to the Knicks on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. It’s the 11th loss in the last 12 games for the Pistons (20-45), who fell to the fifth-worst record in the league. Their losing streak is at four games and with their next two games at Philadelphia and Toronto — two of the top teams in the East — there aren’t any signs of things turning around.
Christian Wood had 22 points and eight rebounds and Bruce Brown 16 points and six assists; the Pistons didn’t have any other players score in double figures.
“I don’t know about everybody else, but I come to games knowing it could be my last time playing, so I play with heart and I play with energy,” Wood said. “I’m going to bring it every single time, but we can’t come into games sluggish and cool.”
The Knicks (20-44) led, 72-71, entering the fourth quarter and opened with a 10-3 run, with a lay-in and 3-point play by Bobby Portis. Julius Randle added five points during the next stretch, when the Knicks widened the lead to 89-77 at the 4:40 mark.
Pistons coach Dwane Casey lamented the opportunities that got away with being so close in the fourth quarter, even on the second night of a back-to-back.
“We had some good opportunities and turned them down to drive it. We put ourselves against the (shot) clock quite a bit, especially in the fourth quarter,” Casey said. “It was a one-point game (to start the fourth quarter) and we just couldn’t get anything else going; the ball just stuck.
“Everyone caught it and held it. You’re not going to produce very many points doing that.”
Wood helped to keep the Pistons close with a couple of baskets down the stretch, but the Pistons managed just 13 points in a dismal fourth period and couldn’t muster much offense, with only two players in double figures.
Without their last two pure point guards, Derrick Rose and Brandon Knight, who missed the game because of a knee injury, the Pistons were left with Bruce Brown as their best option. He had six assists, but Casey knows the importance of a facilitator.
“He’s trying; it’s not Bruce’s fault. In this league, if you’re not a point guard and you’re trying to be a point guard and developing in this league, it’s difficult,” Casey said. “He’s trying to run the pick-and-roll, trying to make the right passes, but it’s difficult.”
The Pistons had their biggest lead, 20-12, in the first quarter, but the Knicks rallied for a 15-2 run to take a 27-22 margin. Mitchell Robinson (14 points and 11 rebounds) had six points in the spurt, including a half-court alley-oop from Elfrid Payton (16 points, five rebounds and six assists).
► Khyri Thomas got a longer look as the backup point guard in the first half, with six points in eight minutes. He hit a pair of 3-pointers in a span of 51 seconds, but he didn’t ignite the offense much with his passing and facilitating. It’s as much scoring as Thomas has done this season — seven points total in his previous six games — but he’s slowly getting back into a flow of playing after a foot injury derailed most of his season.
► Brown was more effective running the offense, as the starter, taking the place of Brandon Knight, who was out because of a knee issue. Brown was better offensively, hitting a couple of 3-pointers but guided things well, with six assists.
► The Pistons couldn’t stop dribble-penetration and the Knicks guards, including Payton and Barrett, got in the post almost at will and contributed to their 54 points in the paint. Brown is regarded as a good on-ball defender, but as a collective, the containment wasn’t there and the Knick feasted.
► Wood scored in double figures for the 14th straight game, highlighting the struggles they’ve had offensively in finding another option to get points on the board. Without Derrick Rose or Luke Kennard, they’re having a tough time finding anyone else who can create his own shot off the dribble and draw defenses.
► The Knicks had a 51-35 rebounding advantage, including 13-5 on the offensive end. Since the Andre Drummond trade, the Pistons have had trouble sticking with teams on the glass and though they’re creating fewer opportunities for easy putbacks. Randle’s 12 and Robinson’s 11 rebounds gave the Pistons problems.