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After a solid preseason debut Friday, the Knicks played well for just one quarter in Sunday’s rematch and dropped a 99-91 decision to the Pistons at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
Rookie lottery pick Obi Toppin crashed to Earth with a porous performance in his second game and the Knicks’ defense wasn’t near as flawless as it was in coach Tom Thibodeau’s debut.
Thibodeau kept the same starting lineup and the unit had them afloat after a poor start. But the Knicks’ bench was dreadful and the club scored 16 points in the final frame in a woeful offensive outing.
Toppin came off the pine to score just four points on 1-for-9 shooting — including 1 of 6 from 3. Pistons coach Dwane Casey made adjustments, installed a 2-3 zone to dare the Knicks to shoot and evened the score.
Alec Burks (15 points) started at small forward for the second straight game and led a third-quarter rally in which the Knicks took the lead before they folded in the fourth quarter.
RJ Barrett had a strong evening (25 points, 10 of 17 from the field) but blew a transition layup with 4:30 left after a Julius Randle steal.
The Knicks had shown many good signs in holding Detroit to 80 points Friday, but regressed. It was a miserable night for 2018 lottery pick Kevin Knox (1 for 6, two airballs) and backup point guard Dennis Smith Jr. showed little. Backup center Mitchell Robinson picked up five fouls in his first 11 minutes.
After trailing by 10 at halftime, the Knicks played with more spirit to start the second half, upping their defense and outside shooting. Barrett pumped in 11 points in the third quarter and free-agent signee Burks, starting for a second straight game, added nine in making three 3-pointers.
The Knicks rallied to take a 3-point lead and were tied after three quarters at 75, but the young bench couldn’t continue the momentum.
The Knicks’ defense was a lot less intense Sunday than in Friday’s big win. On Sunday, they allowed 31 points in the first quarter as the Pistons got a lot of easy baskets. Blake Griffin, on the second possession, drilled a wide-open 3-pointer and Derrick Rose and Delon Wright dribbled through for easy lay-ins.
Thibodeau’s group wasn’t sharp from the 3-point line Friday but their ineptitude was magnified Sunday when Detroit went to a zone. They were 1 of 6 from 3-point line in the first quarter and fell behind 31-20.
Coming off the bench, Knox looked alarmingly off kilter, launching two airballs from the perimeter and going 0 for 3 by intermission. Randle drilled a 3-pointer with 1 second left in the half as the Knicks closed within 52-42.
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