Knicks hang on to beat Pistons after nearly blowing 15-point lead
TThe Knicks tried their best to give away yet another home game, but in the end, their superstar bailed them out for an 89-85 win.
New York (12-22) has endured a frustrating trend of laying an egg at the Garden all season, but thankfully for the faithful, they were able to hold on and show some mettle by staving off the Pistons (14-21). It was New York’s first home win since the middle of December, as they snapped a four-game skid at the Garden.
Head coach Mike Woodson held a brief postgame press conference — perhaps frustrated by the near collapse. But the tone of his chat was anything but, as he lauded his team for not blowing a 15-point lead in the second half.
“I thought we were actually pretty good defensively throughout the course of the game,” Woodson said of a Knicks’ defense that held the Pistons to 37.2 percent shooting, including 15.8 on 2-pointers (3-of-19). “Sure, we were very slow in that fourth quarter, but a win’s a win, and we’ll take it.”
Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 34 points, including 6-of-7 on 3-pointers, as the Knicks started reasonably well, fell into a second-quarter lull and then rallied to put away the Pistons. New York was spurred by Anthony’s 13 points in the third quarter, a huge reason for the Knicks’ 15-0 run in the middle of the frame. But surprisingly they failed to salt away the game.
Point guard Raymond Felton made his return to the starting lineup and was rather effective — surprising since he helped stymie the very quick Brandon Jennings. Felton notched 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting to go along with six assists. He had a team-high six turnovers, but he said he’ll take this performance after an extended absence.
“I wanted to be aggressive all game [and] my legs felt fine [because] I actually lost weight [during his hiatus]. I felt really good out there,” Felton said. They didn’t give up. They kept fighting and they made plays. They are a great offensive rebounding team … but somehow we have to start finding ways to get things done when it’s tight down the stretch. Certain shots are not going to fall or things are not going to go your way [but] I am glad we showed the grit tonight.”
One player who showed surprising grit was power forward Andrea Bargnani, who aided Anthony by spacing the floor. Bargnani finished with 13 points (6-of-11 shooting) and a team-high 11 rebounds, as he helped the undersized Knicks frontcourt raise the pace with a smaller, speedier starting lineup. Center Tyson Chandler sat out with an upper respiratory infection and was replaced by power forward Kenyon Martin. The hulking forward was at a size disadvantage but held his own with six points, seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks.
Anthony said he was proud of the way his bigs battled, even if they got hammered on the glass, 54-38.
“The game plan was to keep them off the boards, [because] they are one of the top teams rebounding the basketball,” said Anthony. “But I actually think Bargnani did a good job of fighting them off. Everyone had to help.”
Jennings tallied just five points on 2-of-11 shooting. Jennings, who was once a primary target of the Knicks’ former brass during the 2009 NBA Draft, also committed a costly turnover during a furious comeback attempt.
Fellow newbie, small forward Josh Smith, was non-existent early, but rallied in the second half to register 21 points and 12 rebounds. He also had a game-high eight turnovers to maintain his feast-or-famine game. He also shot an airball from 17 feet with the Pistons down just one point and nine seconds left.
Knicks notes …
» The Pistons’ do-everything swingman, Rodney Stuckey (shoulder), sat out.
» Metta World Peace also sat out with a sore left knee.
» Pablo Prigioni (hairline fracture of right big toe) also sat out, as he’s still a ways away, according to Woodson.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.