The New York Knicks are having trouble finishing what they started but they’ve still won six of their last seven games. They’ll seek a better closing punch when they visit Detroit on Sunday afternoon.
In their only loss during that stretch, Milwaukee outscored New York by nine points in the fourth quarter to notch a 111-107 victory on Monday.
Indiana outscored New York 72-57 in the second half on Wednesday but the Knicks hung on for a 119-113 win. Then on Friday, New York nearly gave away a 15-point, fourth-quarter advantage in a 112-108 win at Washington.
“I feel like we’ve played better as of late, but we still have some work to do,” guard Jalen Brunson said. “We have to close out games better and we have to find ways to make life easier for us, for each other.”
The latest tightrope act didn’t end safely until Brunson made four free throws in the final 14 seconds. He finished with 34 points and eight assists.
“We picked it up a little bit, we got stops, got in transition … and we just found a way,” Brunson said. “We’ve just got to keep fighting. We knew they weren’t going to quit. That lead helped us out a little bit and helped us secure a big enough lead to put them away at the end.”
Brunson has been on a scoring binge this month, averaging 33.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.7 rebounds.
His latest big game offset a 40-point performance from Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma.
“Jalen Brunson. He just took over the game,” Kuzma said. “He’s an All-Star this year. He’s been playing phenomenal basketball. … You can just tell from the team last year to this year, they have more poise and patience, and they look for him, and he delivered (Friday).”
The Knicks have dominated the Pistons over the past several years. They’ve won the last 11 meetings, including three this season.
Julius Randle has averaged 24.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists against Detroit this season.
Randle could be in line for another big game against Detroit’s depleted frontcourt. The Pistons were overpowered by New Orleans center Jonas Valanciunas in a 116-110 loss on Friday.
Valanciunas racked up 33 points, 16 rebounds and three assists against a Pistons team that was forced to start third-string center Nerlens Noel for the third straight game. Isaiah Stewart (shoulder), Jalen Duren (ankle) and Marvin Bagley III (hand) are all sidelined.
Coach Dwane Casey resorted to using double teams to contain Valanciunas, which led to open shooters on the perimeter.
“We’re short-handed at the middle position,” he said. “I thought we battled as hard as we could. Had a couple of breakdowns in our trap rotation but it’s tough when you’re going against a talented center like Valanciunas, who can pass it and can score.”
Detroit has lost four of its last five contests. The Pistons will head to Paris, France, this week to face Chicago on Thursday.
–Field Level Media