The Detroit Pistons have been one of the NBA’s best road teams in recent years, but it hasn’t helped them at Madison Square Garden.
The Pistons (18-8) try for their sixth straight win as they face the Knicks (12-18) on Wednesday.
Detroit has won 10 of its last 12 games against the Knicks, with the 10 wins coming by an average margin of 11.3 points. Most of the success has come at home, however, with the Pistons just 7-20 at Madison Square Garden since 1991.
The Pistons are looking to extend their five-game winning streak following a 92-91 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Tuesday. Chauncey Billups, who was 1-of-10 from the floor, made two free throw with 7.2 seconds to give his team the lead and its 15th win in 18 games.
“I love games like this,” Billups said. “Even though I struggled, it’s great to be in games that you know are going down to the wire and that someone’s going to have to make a play.”
Billups’ free throws might not have mattered without Rasheed Wallace’s crucial defensive play afterward. Wallace forced New Jersey’s Vince Carter to miss a pull-up jumper with 1.5 seconds left when the duo crashed into one another. The referees, though, did not call a foul as Detroit escaped with the win.
Wallace wasn’t even supposed to be guarding Carter, but rotated defensively after Tayshaun Prince tripped.
“Sheed made an unbelievable play there,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. “Tay goes down, and they’ve got one of the premier scorers in the league at the top of the key with no one guarding him. You generally don’t want to be playing 5-on-4 with a one-point lead and five seconds to go.”
Detroit is the Eastern Conference’s only team with a winning road record (9-5). Although the Pistons have historically struggled at Madison Square Garden, they have won three of their last five there against the short-handed Knicks, who are coming off Saturday’s 98-77 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers that ended a season-high three-game winning streak.
Jamal Crawford scored 21 points, but the fatigue from playing four games— including two overtime wins—in six nights was too much to overcome.
“We didn’t have enough gas in the tank,” coach Isiah Thomas said. “I was concerned we might be flat and we were flat.”
New York shot 42 percent from the field, committed 20 turnovers and the 77 points were a season low—almost 22 below its season average.
“They gave me as much as they could,” said Thomas, who has been forced to shuffle his lineup the past few days because of injuries and suspensions. “I’m not mad or upset.”
Although the team was playing without Mardy Collins, Jared Jeffries and Nate Robinson—all suspended—and the injured Quentin Richardson (back spasms), Steve Francis returned to the lineup. Francis, who missed the previous eight games with tendinitis in his right knee, had nine points and two assists in just over 16 minutes.
This is the second meeting between the teams this season. Chauncey Billups had 22 points and 16 assists in a 108-100 win by the Pistons on Dec. 1, while Eddy Curry led New York with 24 points.
Following Wednesday’s game, the Knicks begin a five-game road trip on Friday against the Phoenix Suns.