More and more, the Knicks are starting to look like a basketball team that is actually worthy of plying their trade in the NBA rather than a motley collection of players who would struggle to win a pick-up game at Rucker Park. In their latest game, Tuesday's tilt against the Detroit Pistons that the Knicks won 89-85, the team showed that their three previous January games were no fluke. Instead, with the way they are playing, it is not hard to envision them not only remaining competitive in the putrid Eastern Conference, but also eventually negotiating their way into the playoff picture. All they have to do is continue to put together enough winning performances as they did on Tuesday.
Compared to the Knicks' three previous January contests where they were facing some of the best teams in the NBA, the Pistons really did not present as much of a challenge. The Pistons, if anything, have played this season at an almost identical, albeit slightly lower, efficiency level than have the Knicks, making the match-up one of the more equal ones that the Knicks have played recently.
Therefore, it was not much of a surprise that the Knicks' victory was a close affair. What made the game most entertaining, though, was the way in which the two teams arrived at their close result. After playing a very competitive two quarters, and ending the first half tied 41-41, the two teams then took wildly diverging paths in the final two quarters only to end up meeting at the final destination where their similar ability levels suggested they were headed in the first place.
In the third quarter, it was the Knicks' time to shine as they ratcheted up their offensive efficiency and defensive intensity. During the quarter, the Knicks converted on 12 of their 21 field goal attempts, including going 3 of 4 from three-point range, and also made all five of their free throw attempts in the period en route to scoring 32 points. Carmelo Anthony was the offensive star of the quarter for the Knicks, accounting for all three of the Knicks' three-pointers made and scoring 13 points.
The rim was a lot less kind for the Pistons during the third quarter as the team combined to shoot a middling 6 of 16 from the field, a percentage made little better by the one three-pointer they managed to make; the Pistons also added four free throws made to their meager output.
However, the fourth quarter saw a reversal as it was the Pistons who played a more efficient brand of basketball while the Knicks' shooting went ice-cold. In the fourth quarter, the Pistons made just 10 of 25 from the field, including two three-point makes, and 5 of 9 from the free throw line, which would not be impressive on its own, but when compared to the Knicks' offense in the fourth quarter, the Pistons were world beaters.
The Knicks might have made 5 of their 12 field goal attempts in the fourth quarter for a not horrendous shooting percentage, but their low number of field goal attempts in the quarter indicates a troubling lack of efficiency within their possessions. It is an indication backed up by the evidence as the Knicks contrived ways to turn the ball over eight times; for the game, the Knicks had 22 turnovers so they had more than a third of their turnovers in the fourth quarter alone.
Fortunately for the Knicks, who had built up a 15-point lead entering the final period, their inability to make smart decisions with the ball in the fourth quarter did not cost the team a victory; it just cost the team a chance at an esteem-boosting commanding victory. Still, for a team for whom victories have been scarce for most of the season, it is unlikely the Knicks will be complaining much about only defeating the Pistons by four points.