Last Updated: 2019-04-10
The formula for the Detroit Pistons is simple. Win and you’re in. Tonight is the last day of the NBA regular season, and the Pistons need a win over the New York Knicks in order to ensure themselves of a spot in the postseason. A loss and a Charlotte win over Orlando would leave Detroit home for the playoffs.
Blake Griffin has been great for Detroit this season, but the Pistons’ star forward has been dealing with knee issues and was relatively ineffective against Memphis last night. He only played 18 minutes, and he was largely a non-factor during his time on the court. Griffin is considered questionable tonight, but even if he plays, it’s hard to see him being the player we’ve seen most of the year. Rookie Svi Mykhailiuk is questionable for the Pistons too.
The Knicks have shut a lot of their young players down for the season. Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay, Noah Vonleh, Lance Thomas, Kadeem Allen, Mario Hezonja, and Allonzo Trier all missed last night’s game against Chicago and aren’t expected to play tonight either. Isaiah Hicks is doubtful to see action.
Considering what’s on the line, Detroit is a 9.5-point favorite in Madison Square Garden against the worst team in the NBA tonight. The total has been set at 209.5 points.
What’s at Stake?
There is nothing at stake for the Knicks coming into tonight’s season finale. They have already locked up the NBA’s worst record (despite Cleveland’s best efforts at the tail end of the season), and that will give them the most chances to land Zion Williamson. New York has also avoided having the worst season in team history following last night’s victory over Chicago, so only pride is on the line for the Knicks.
Missing out on the playoffs would be pretty awful for Detroit after feeling so confident in the team’s chances just a few weeks ago. The Pistons have made it to the playoffs just once this decade, so this would be a tough pill to swallow for their fans.
There have been signs of life from the Knicks since they ensured they would finish with the most ping pong balls. They have won their last two games, beating Washington on Sunday and knocking off Chicago in the Windy City last night. There are a lot of young players looking to prove themselves in the lineup right now.
Detroit has lost four of its last five and seven of its last ten. The Pistons needed to rally from a 19-point halftime deficit against Memphis last night to continue to control its own destiny after sputtering down the stretch. They have beaten the Knicks in all three of their previous meetings this season.
Since Griffin is banged up, it will be up to other Detroit players to lead the team to the postseason. Andre Drummond will be at the vanguard of that push tonight.
Drummond is the NBA’s best rebounder, and he has had some awesome performances over the last two weeks. He has pulled down at least 17 boards in seven of Detroit’s last eight games, and he has been the team’s leading rebounder in every game since February 2. He has improved considerably as a free throw shooter this year too, and that has kept him from being a liability at the end of games.
Ish Smith has had consecutive great games coming off the bench too. Last night, no Pistons starter was particularly good from the floor, but Smith went 9-15 to lead the team in scoring for a second straight night. Reggie Jackson is a streaky shooter, so getting production from bench players like Smith is big.
The Knicks are getting a chance to see what they have in certain players. They gave Luke Kornet, Mitchell Robinson, and Damyean Dotson big minutes last night, and if they are going to pull off the upset, one of them will have to have a great game.
Two more proven players look set to play again too. Kevin Knox and Dennis Smith Jr. are two of the key pieces on this team, and they were the Knicks’ leading scorers last night. Knox and Smith are streaky shooters that aren’t afraid to keep shooting.
I like the Knicks to keep this one within the number. The line is inflated given what’s at stake for Detroit, but most of the players seeing time for the Knicks tonight are playing for their future. They will be plenty motivated and may be able to lead the team to an upset.
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