Knicks foil Pistons, offset big nights from Saddiq Bey, Hamidou Diallo
Detroit — Many of the Pistons’ games have taken a predictable turn, either in the first half or second half, where they let the game get away from them.
Since their COVID issues have escalated, they’ve been without eight of their regular roster players and they’ve had to piece together a rotation with mostly G League players.
For a while, that didn’t matter against the New York Knicks on Wednesday night. The mix of regular players and G Leaguers jelled and went from a double-digit deficit in the first half to a double-digit lead in the third quarter.
The piecemeal squad, led by Hamidou Diallo and Saddiq Bey, rallied for the lead, but they couldn’t hold on in the fourth quarter, falling to the Knicks for the second time in a week, 94-85, on Wednesday at Little Caesars Arena.
Bey finished with a career-high 32 points, along with nine rebounds and Diallo had season highs of 31 points and 13 rebounds, with four assists for the Pistons (5-28), who have dropped four straight games, including a loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 21, which started the skid.
BOX SCORE: Knicks 94, Pistons 85
“Saddiq and Hami, I can't say enough good things about how well they played both on the defensive end and the offensive end,” coach Dwane Casey said.
The Knicks (17-18) trailed, 71-64, entering the fourth quarter, and opened with a 14-0 run, keyed by Alec Burks (34 points). He started the run with a lay-in and added a 3-pointer to tie it at 71, and after he found Obi Toppin on an alley-oop, Burks hit two free throws on a clear-path foul. On the ensuing possession, Burks followed with a 3-pointer and the lead ballooned to 78-71 at the 8:37 mark.
Bey ended the run with his sixth 3-pointer of the game, but the Knicks continued the onslaught with a free throw by Toppin and a 3-pointer by Immanuel Quickley (18 points). Luka Garza made one of two free throws and the Knicks added a free throw off a technical foul and Burks scored on a hook to get the Knicks’ lead back to 10.
Diallo sparked the Pistons with a drive and three of four free throws in the next stretch, trimming the lead to 85-80 at the 3:04 mark, but Burks put the game away with a 3-pointer and a four-point play on the next possession to push the lead to 12 with 1:52 left. Bey had five free throws in the final minute, but they didn’t get any closer than nine the rest of the way.
The already-shorthanded Pistons lost another key rotation player when Frank Jackson left in the first half because of an ankle injury and didn’t return to the game.
“I thought Hami played the right way. He did a great job of picking his spots, making the right decisions and trusting his teammates, and the ball found the right person at the right time,” Casey said. “He played the game as perfectly as you can play it. He took the corner three, and that's something that he learned from in the San Antonio game and he's continuing to grow.
“Those two guys did what they could do to carry us and losing Frank hurt, but really proud of the way Hami played under control, with another gear to go to and made the right decisions with the basketball.”
The Pistons had an abysmal start to the game, missing their first eight field-goal attempts, as the Knicks took a 7-0 lead in the first four-plus minutes. The Pistons finally got on the board with a jumper by Diallo and back-to-back 3-pointers Bey and Jackson.
The Knicks had their biggest lead, 36-23, at the 6:58 mark of the second quarter, after starting with a 13-3 spurt. Diallo and Bey scored 18 of the Pistons’ 20 points in the period, including 10 by Diallo. Bey’s 3-pointer with 36.1 seconds left pulled the Pistons within 47-41, but Julius Randle added a free throw in the final seconds for a seven-point halftime lead.
“In the past, we haven't played well right out the gate at halftime, so at halftime, we were talking about coming out in the first five minutes and to try to set the tone, play hard and get some stops and have that lead us into the fourth until the end of the game,” Bey said. “That was the message.”
The Pistons started the third quarter with a 25-4 run, and they had their biggest lead, 66-52, at the 3:17 mark of the third quarter.