AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Stan Van Gundy finally got his first victory as the Detroit Pistons head coach but not before they displayed some of their old bad habits.
The Pistons built an 18-point, second-half lead, then barely held off the New York Knicks’ furious rally before securing a 98-95 win on Wednesday at The Palace.
Detroit (1-3) lost a league-high 14 games last season while carrying a lead into the fourth quarter. The Pistons were up 15 with less than five minutes remaining but allowed the Knicks to turn it into a one-possession game in the closing seconds.
“We need to keep our focus coming down the stretch on both sides,” said Pistons power forward Greg Monroe, who powered for a game-high 23 points and 18 rebounds. “They kind of turned up their offensive intensity and then offensively we’ve got to stick to the things that were working for us when we built the lead. Then the lead won’t break down like it did.”
New York (2-3) finished the game on a 21-9 run despite a poor shooting night from perennial All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony. Detroit’s forward combination of Josh Smith and Caron Butler put the clamps on Anthony, who missed his first nine shot attempts and finished with 13 points on 5-of-21 shooting from the field.
“We had some bad fouls, we couldn’t get a couple of rebounds and we missed some free throws,” Van Gundy said of his team’s late struggles.
The Pistons (1-3), who were shooting 21.9 percent on 3-point attempts, made 11-of-23 from long range. But they shot 17-for-47 (36.2 percent) inside the paint.
“We missed a lot of layups, a lot of shots right around the basket,” Van Gundy said. “I wasn’t happy we missed those, but you can’t get many more shots around the rim than we did tonight.”
Shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell Pope supplied 20 points, including four 3-pointers. Point guard Brandon Jennings and reserve guard D.J. Augustin added 12 points apiece while reserve forward Jonas Jerebko chipped in 11.
Backup shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr., whose father, Tim Hardaway, is a Pistons assistant coach, had a team-high 20 points for New York. Center Jason Smith contributed 17 while guard Iman Shumpert and power forward Amar’e Stoudemire added 15 apiece.
Hardaway Jr. sparked the rally with 14 fourth-quarter points.
“It was just effort,” he said. “We played with better effort in the second half. I think my teammates feel the same way as well. We just have to play that way the entire game.”
Anthony’s offensive futility put the Knicks in a 49-37 hole at halftime. He missed all six of his field-goal attempts and didn’t get on the board until he made two free throws with 2:57 left in the half.
“I thought early on he was trying to do the right thing and not looking to attack too early; that’s part of finding his balance,” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said. “There will be some nights that are better.”
Anthony missed his first three shot attempts in the third before finally breaking through on a 12-foot jumper with 8:47 left in the quarter. He made two more baskets during the quarter but the Pistons lead continued to grow and reached 18 when Jerebko drained consecutive 3-pointers to make it 75-57.
Stoudemire’s three-point play and dunk brought the Knicks within eight at 89-81. Hardaway Jr. soon went on a personal five-point run to close the gap to 91-86.
Hardaway drilled a three in the final minute and Caldwell-Pope missed two free throws, giving New York one last chance while trailing by three. Shumpert made a free throw with two seconds remaining and intentionally missed the second but New York couldn’t secure the rebound.
Knicks reserve point guard Pablo Prigioni sprained his right ankle during the second quarter and did not return.
NOTES: New York was playing without two starters and a key reserve. PG Jose Calderon (right calf strain) and PF Andrea Bargnani (right hamstring strain) were injured, and SG J.R. Smith was suspended one game by the league for striking Washington SG Glen Rice Jr. in the groin on Tuesday. … New York coach Derek Fisher said the suspension came as a surprise, adding that every player has to be more careful about their actions. “We talk to all of our players about being smart on the floor, knowing the NBA is looking at everything,” he said. … Pistons G/F Cartier Martin (right foot strain) and F Gigi Datome (right hamstring strain) were inactive. … New York F Carmelo Anthony was averaging 21.5 points and 4.9 rebounds against Detroit in 23 career games, his lowest against any Eastern Conference opponent. … The Pistons won the season series last year 2-1, their first season series victory over the Knicks since 2006-07.
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