DETROIT – Tom Thibodeau likes to tell his team that every player who comes to the NBA has to be great to get there, so ignore the names on the jersey and the opposition’s pedigree and just play hard.
Most of the night on Wednesday at Little Caesars Arena, his point could be discussed – not because of the performance of the nameless collection of players that the Detroit Pistons put on the floor, but because of the horrific, lifeless efforts of his own most announced players. .
Faced with a team that was decimated by COVID-19 and other injuries – a team that was only able to prevent the match from being postponed by having only eight additions to strenuous exceptions – the Knicks experienced being run off the field in third quarter as Thibodeau lifted its starters and let the bench carry the day.
With a supply of energy that had been noticeably lacking, the Knicks came back from a 14-point deficit to a 94-85 victory, bringing Detroit to 5-28.
The Knicks (17-18) escaped their back-to-back with victories over the heavily shorthanded Timberwolves and Pistons, none of whom will reappear as MSG Classics, and have won three games in a row.
After the Knicks fell behind 66-52, Thibodeau went with five reserves and saw them surpass the Pistons 33-9 in the next 10:27 to take an 85-75 lead, aided by a 17-0 run. Thibodeau never went back to the starters and kept this unit intact for the final 3:16 of the third quarter and the entire fourth quarter.
Alec Burks scored 34 points and scored 24 points in 12:33 (shot 8-to-10 from the field and 4-to-4 from three-point range) as the Knicks turned a 68-55 deficit into a 92- speak up. -80 lead.
Taj Gibson delivered an experienced and energetic boost along with Miles McBride (who was goalless but changed the tone defensively), Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley.
The Knicks’ five reserves scored 65 points in 136 minutes and was a plus-161. The five starters scored 29 points in 104 minutes and were minus-116.
The problem for Thibodeau is what to make of the starters.
Julius Randle followed up on a 5-to-20 night in Minnesota with a 2-to-11, five-point effort as he for the second night in a row seemed to lack energy.
Thibodeau said afterwards that Randle was hurt, noting: “He has stopped. I think he gives us everything he has. That’s what I love about him. He does not make any apologies. He just gets out there, he keeps going. ” Randle was not made available after the match.
Kemba Walker, who played back-to-back nights, was 1-on-5 with two points and two assists in 20 minutes. RJ Barrett scored 15 points but was a team-worst minus-29.
The team was without Evan Fournier, who was a scratch at the last minute after he unsuccessfully tried to loosen a sore right ankle in the warm-up. Rookie Quentin Grimes got the start and fit for one night right into the rest of the underperforming unit – enduring 0-to-5, pointless 13 minutes.
“What we were thinking about getting in – we had travel issues yesterday – so we knew it would be a challenge,” Thibodeau said, after flight problems delayed their flight and they did not arrive until 6 p.m. 5. “It was all just trying to find a way to win. No excuses. We’ll find some people who can get something done. That’s what we did.”
Saddiq Bey (32 points, nine rebounds) and Hamidou Diallo (31 points, 13 rebounds) scored a total of 50 points as the Pistons brought a 71-64 lead into the fourth quarter, but Detroit shot 2-to-16 in the final period.
The Pistons, or at least this diluted version of the team, went goalless in the first 4:47 of the game, failing on their first eight shots. But trailing by 7-0 at the time, they went on a 13-0 run with a lineup missing 12 players from the list. The Pistons were even more exhausted with Frank Jackson starting on the backcourt, carried off the floor by teammates after injuring his leg.
But the Knicks’ problem got much worse in the third quarter as Detroit ran 16-2 to start the period. The Knicks called the time a minute in, then again and finally again as the run-up reached 25-4.
Mitchell Robinson was called up for offensive goalkeeping twice and the Knicks committed a five-second offense as they tried to get into midfield. The arena suddenly shook as if fans were watching the Bad Boys of the Pistons championship year as this ragtag group turned a 45-34 deficit late in the second quarter to a 66-52 lead.
“You can have all the excuses in the world,” Gibson said. “You could say we came too late, we’re tired, but at the end of the day you have to go out there and do your job. You have to go out there and be professional and find a way to win. “That’s why you have the players on this team and it just showed a lot of character right there to come back as we were.”