The opening stretch of Thursday’s nationally televised game between the New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons looked like a particularly fitting start to a rather sleepy pre-Super Bowl slate for the league. The Pistons out-scored the visiting Knicks by 12 in each of the first two quarters to lead by as many as 27 in the second quarter and 50-36 at halftime, looking well on their way to a blowout win. Viewers could be forgiven for deciding to change the channel.
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If they did, though, then they missed the sort of exciting NBA finish that can arise from even the least enticing beginnings. Down 70-52 at the midway point of the third, the Knicks allowed just eight points over rest of the quarter to get the lead to 78-71 at the buzzer. They then slowly cut into the remaining margin in the fourth, eventually taking their first lead of the night at 97-95 on a Robin Lopez lay-in with 2:14 on the clock.
Detroit did not go quietly thanks to several big three-pointers. Anthony Tolliver made a late-clock triple on the next possession to retake the lead for the hosts, but that was just prelude to two game-icing shots from point guard Reggie Jackson. After a missed three by Carmelo Anthony, Jackson got started:
His two clutch three-pointers at the 1:21 and 0:38 marks sandwiched a Robin Lopez dunk to keep the Knicks at bay. Jackson and Stanley Johnson went 7-of-8 from the line to finish off the 111-105 win, which drew the Pistons into a virtual tie with the Indiana Pacers for the No. 7 spot in the East. Detroit is now up two games on the Charlotte Hornets in the race for the conference’s eighth playoff berth.
It will not go down as a great result for the Knicks, but their comeback was impressive and serves as another sign of their newfound status as a fun team with a seemingly bright future. It was perhaps most heartening to see it happen without Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis (a combined 24 points on 6-of-27 FG) scoring at a particularly impressive clip. Rather, the damage was done by Lopez (26 points on 11-of-14 FG and 16 rebounds), Arron Afflalo (24 points on 8-of-15 FG), and Langston Galloway (17 points on 7-of-9 FG). This fine move from Galloway to get an open three-pointer was especially fun:
They just didn’t have an answer for the full Pistons lineup early and Jackson’s big jumpers late. It wasn’t the best overall game for the Most Improved Player candidate, but his 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc was efficient and his 21 points were very meaningful to the win. It looks increasingly likely that Detroit can make the postseason in Stan Van Gundy’s second season, and the play of Jackson has been one of the biggest factors in that improvement. He and All-Star Andre Drummond form a solid core.
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