Derek Fisher’s halftime speech sent the New York Knicks on a torrid comeback against the Detroit Pistons, but the squad just couldn’t quite compete the rally on the road.
The Knicks trailed by 27 during a frustrating first half, prompting Coach Fish to light a fire under his team at the break. They responded in a big way, outscoring the Pistons 35-18 in the third quarter.
“[Fisher] got on us,’’ said star forward Carmelo Anthony. “Like he’s supposed to do when you have a half like that. What he said resonated with the guys on the team. Coach said the right things to get us to think and get fired up.”
N.Y. clawed its way back to within seven for the fourth quarter and briefly took a two-point lead with just two minutes to go. But the Knicks couldn’t hold on, falling 111-105 at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
“There’s no explanation for that,” Fisher said of the Knicks performance to start the game. “Our guys just didn’t come to play in the first half, and we dug ourselves the kind of hole where everything has to go right for you to have a chance.”
A lot went right for the Knicks in their comeback, but it just wasn’t perfect. A Langston Galloway three-pointer tied the game at 95 with 2:45 to go, and Robin Lopez gave the Knicks the lead with a bucket down low on the next possession. However, the lead was short-lived. Three consecutive makes from beyond the arc by the Pistons helped close out the game down the stretch.
Anthony Tolliver started Detroit’s desperation rally, draining a three to give the lead right back to the Pistons. Then Reggie Jackson followed up with back-to-back threes to make it a 104-99 game with 38 seconds to play. From there, the Pistons iced it with 7-of-8 shooting from the free throw line.
Lopez was the Knicks best player of the floor last night as the big-man finished with a game-high in points and rebounds. He tallied 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting and came down with 16 boards in 35 minutes. Aaron Afflalo also had a big night for New York with 24 points, three boards, three assists and two steals in 42 minutes.
After the loss and the huge double-double, Lopez echoed what D-Fish said about the group’s maddening start in the first half being the main culprit to last night’s defeat. He also explained the level of pride that was involved when the Knicks came of strong in the third quarter.
“I don’t think we offered any resistance in the first half, we didn’t play with any pride,’’ Lopez said. “I think there was some semblance of pride in the second half. You’re not supposed to win games when you beat yourself like that in the first half…all the scrambling and rallying in the last two quarters is negated. It’s fairly inexcusable.”
Melo finished with another double-double for the Knicks starting group. Melo scored 19 points and came down with 11 rebounds in 40 minutes of action. He also contributed with eight assists in a steal in the well-rounded effort. The other starters, Kristaps Porzingis and Jose Calderon both had off-nights in the defeat.
In his return to the floor after being sidelined a few games, Calderon couldn’t help New York avoid its seventh loss in its last eight games. He finished the game scoreless and added three assists in only 13 minutes as he was eased back into action. Kristaps had a rough night from the field, shooting 2-of-9 and finishing with five points and four rebounds in 24 minutes.
Galloway was very effective off the bench. The shooting guard scored 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting to lead all players in the game off the pine. He also added five rebounds, two assists and a steal in 36 minutes.
Fisher and the Knicks (23-29) will be back at home Friday night to take on the Memphis Grizzlies (29-20). In the last meeting between the two teams on Jan. 16, the Knicks fell to the Grizzlies by a final score of 103-95 on the road.
Memphis has been on fire lately and has won eight of its past nine games coming into tonight’s showdown at MSG against the Knicks.
The game is slated to tipoff at 7:30 p.m. EST and will be aired on MSG.