The New York Knicks have arguably been the Detroit Pistons’ toughest matchup this season. The Pistons had already lost to them four times this season before Sunday, including once during preseason and three during the regular season. Three of those losses were by at least 20 points.
The Knicks completed the regular season sweep at Little Caesars Arena on Sunday, defeating the Pistons, 117-104. The Pistons were without leading scorer Bojan Bogdanovic, who sat out with a non-COVID illness, but got Isaiah Stewart back from a three-game absence with left shoulder soreness. Jalen Duren missed his fifth straight game with right ankle soreness.
Stewart and Detroit’s other bigs and forwards weren’t able to slow down Julius Randle, who went off for 42 points and 15 rebounds while making 15 of his 24 shots. Randle has enjoyed playing the Pistons in Detroit: During their last matchup — on Randle’s 28th birthday — the standout forward went off for 36 points in 31 minutes to lead New York to a 140-110 blowout win.
Saddiq Bey (21 points, six rebounds) and Jaden Ivey (21 points on 7-for-19 shooting, six rebounds, six assists) led the Pistons (12-35, third-worst in the NBA) in the scoring column, and Kevin Knox provided 16 points on 5-for-6 shooting with three 3-pointers off the bench. Isaiah Livers, who received his first start since Dec. 1, added 11 points, and Killian Hayes flirted with a double-double with nine points (4-for-14 shooting) and nine assists.
Detroit trailed by as many as 20 points in the first half, but closed the second quarter with a 15-4 run to cut the halftime deficit to 62-55. The Pistons got within seven again midway through the fourth quarter, after Livers sank his third 3-pointer of the night to extend a 16-5 Pistons run. Ultimately, the Pistons struggled to make up for New York’s size advantage with Duren and Marvin Bagley III out. The Knicks scored 44 points in the paint and outrebounded the Pistons, 52-38, with 18 coming on offense.
With Bogdanovic out, Bey fills void
All season, Bogdanovic has been Detorit’s best and most consistent scorer, and has been available, with Sunday his third missed game. The Pistons were going to have a tough time without him, especially against a Knicks team that had already lost to by a combined 63 points through three regular season games.
But Bey did his best to make up for Bogdanovic’s absence. Sunday was Bey’s third time this season making at least five 3-pointers, and his fourth-consecutive game with at least 17 points. He’s had an increased role over the last two weeks as the team has weathered injuries, and he got his fifth-straight start and eighth in 10 games against the Knicks.
Bey hit two 3-pointers in the third quarter, including one with 55 seconds left that cut the deficit to six, 86-80.
Knox delivers efficient game
It has been an up-and-down season for Kevin Knox, but the fifth-year forward found a rhythm against his former team. His 16 points were his highest tally since he scored 17 during a win over the Charlotte Hornets on Dec. 14, and only his second time reaching double figures in the month-long stretch of games since that win.
While Knox’s minutes and role has fluctuated based on the Pistons’ injury report, he’s quietly having a solid offensive season. Entering Sunday, he shot 45.3% overall and 35.6% from 3. Sunday was his fifth time this season making at least three 3-pointers. He stepped up to help the Pistons weather the absence of Bogdanovic.
Check out the latest episode of “The Pistons Pulse” podcast, with Free Press beat writer Omari Sankofa II and former Division I player and current analyst Bryce Simon. Listen on Apple, Spotify or wherever you load up podcasts.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Pistons torched again by Julius Randle, NY Knicks 117-104