The Knicks managed to hold off a very competitive Pistons team, 124-106, behind the efforts of an unlikely cast.

Due to maladies and a suspension, it wasn’t a surprise that the Knicks [25-22] would need all the help they could get. What was a surprise, though, was who came to the rescue. Due to absences of Wilson Chandler and Shawne Williams, rookie center Timofey Mozgov got extended playing time and ended up being one of the catalysts in the win. The Russian import notched career highs in points [23] and rebounds [14], in the unfamiliar role of being the first man off the bench. Mozgov, who has been used so sparingly that his 18 first-half minutes were one minute more than the combined minutes he saw in the last two months, was a force. Despite missing his first four shots and looking a bit overwhelmed, Mozgov settled down and made his next four and finished the opening half making 5 of 9. He ended the first half with 11 points and six rebounds, after entering the game with a career-high of just nine points.

Mozgov wasn’t alone in his excellence as he received help from Danilo Gallinari, who finished with 29 points. Gallo, who also had five rebounds, had 14 points in the first half as both teams matched basket for basket. The streaky Ben Gordon got hot early and stayed that way most of the game, as he had a game-high 35 points, including seven 3s. The New York native did all he could to keep the Pistons [17-31] in the game but his herculean efforts came up just short, as Gallo stole the show in the final stanza.

Gallinari had his second-consecutive strong homecourt performance, as he knocked down two threes in the fourth quarter, including a back-breaking 30 footer to give the Knicks its largest lead at the time of eight points, with just over nine minutes remaining. Amar’e Stoudemire also contributed mightily in the second half after starting slow, giving the Knicks a team-high 33 points, including 26 points in the second half. Also chipping in with solid efforts for New York were Raymond Felton and his 12 points, five assists and two steals and 10 points, four rebounds, and three assists from rookie shooting guard Landry Fields.

The Knicks allowed an alarming 91 points after three quarters but actually dug in and showed some defensive gumption, allowing just 15 fourth-quarter points, including holding Detroit scoreless over the last 4:30. Hopefully they can take this momentum into Wednesday’s home matchup against Western Conference power Dallas Mavericks.


1. What we didn’t see was key reserve Shawne Williams, who was suspended one game following his scuffle with Atlanta Hawks forward Marvin Williams, Friday. The void left by Williams, however, was a blessing for the his bench brethren as it allotted more time for the forgotten. Timofey Mozgov had a career game, as he notched career-highs with 23 points and 14 rebounds, including 11 points and six rebounds in his first 18 minutes of action. Mozgov was alone, however, as Toney Douglas and Bill Walker combined for 13 points in only 24 minutes.

2. The Pistons wouldn’t go away quietly, as Tayshaun Prince and New York natives Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva put in work early. Villanueva came off the bench and had all 11 of his points in the first half, while Prince also had 11 of his 16 points in the opening half. Tracy McGrady, who had a cup of coffee with the Knicks last season, added 12 points. Gordon, meanwhile, almost stole the show as he notched a game-high 35 points, including seven threes. Rookie center Greg Monroe added 15 points and a game-high 17 rebounds for a Pistons squad that only had one rebounder in double figures.

3. If the Knicks want to think of themselves of an Eastern Conference factor, they can’t be lulled into playing down to the competition. The Pistons are no ordinary slouch but New York can’t allow an overachieving Pistons team to go on a 13-0 run, as they did in the first quarter to suck the energy out of the Garden crowd. Normally a halfcourt team, Detroit even beat New York at its own game at times, as they made seven of their first nine three pointers. Detroit entered the game averaging only five makes per game. New York’s defensive deficiencies reared its head in the opening half as they allowed 31 points in both the first and second quarters.

4. No one can explain why Danilo Gallinari has a Jekyll and Hyde effect at home and on the road but there he was again shining at home after laying an egg in Atlanta in the previous game. Gallo finished with 29 points, including 14 in the first half, and was his usual at-home aggressive self, knocking down four threes. He more than made up for his lackluster performance in Atlanta because he was the most consistent Knick to show up consistently throughout the game, adding five rebounds and some huge shots down the stretch.

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