By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Pistons | Madison Square Garden
When: Monday | 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG Networks
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: With 11 games to go until the All-Star break, the Knicks made a goal to finish the first half strong. During that period, they'd have seven home games and an opportunity to secure 2nd place in the Eastern Conference heading into the break. So far, so good, as they've won five of the first six and are seeing positive contributions from all over the roster. Carmelo Anthony's streak of 31 games scoring 20 or more points came to an end against the Kings, but that came on a night when the bench scored 82 points. Things are beginning to click, and with only one playoff team left to play before the break, a 10-1 finish to the first half could be in play.
Detroit: The Pistons (18-29) currently have the 10-best record in the East -- not a huge surprise considering that they are one of the youngest teams in the league many of their veterans are paid more than their production might suggest. But not all is wrong in Detroit. They are 4-4 since they met the Knicks in London a couple weeks ago, and a few of their promising young players continue to shine -- in particular the frontcourt of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. They recently took part in the trade that sent Rudy Gay to Toronto, acquiring point guard Jose Calderon from the Raptors and sending longtime Piston Tayshaun Prince to Memphis. Calderon did not play against the Lakers on Sunday, so he could be making his Detroit debut at the Garden.
Last Time Out
New York: The Knicks quickly shook off another slow start and proceeded to dismantle the Kings, 120-81 on Saturday night.
Detroit: Playing without just-traded Prince or traded-for Calderon, the Pistons lost in the last few seconds to the Lakers at home, 98-97. Monroe had 20 points and 12 rebounds.
The Numbers Game
After falling behind 18-6 with 4:56 left in the 1st quarter, the Knicks outscored the Kings 90-34 through the end of the 3rd. New York's starters didn't play a minute in the 4th.
Matchup to Watch
Tyson Chandler vs. Andre Drummond
Drummond is not a starter, but since Chandler plays about 33 minutes a game, they should face each other for some amount of time. When they do, it should be a treat to watch. Chandler, one of the best centers in the league, against one of the most promising young bigs we've seen in quite a while. Drummond, 19, is having one of the best statistical seasons for a teeneager in NBA history, leading the Pistons in Player Efficiency Rating while averaging 13.4 points, 13.6 rebounds and 2.9 blockers per 36 minutes. Good luck getting a rebound or a clean look in the paint while these two are on the court together.
What to Look For
Like many of their opponents during this 11-game stretch, the Pistons do not match up with the Knicks on paper. They are below average both offensively and defensively, according to both points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions. When Monroe and Drummond share the court, they do become very strong on the boards and are more effective overall than they are with Monroe and starting power forward Jason Maxiell. Against Sacramento, the Knicks moved the ball and despite mismatches at most positions, worked for the best shot. If they are patient, they should be able to do the same against Detroit.