AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—The New York Knicks appeared to concede another game, perhaps pushing Isiah Thomas one step closer to losing his job.
“They looked like they didn’t want to compete,” Detroit guard Flip Murray said. “They were just out there. All you had to do was look at their body language. I don’t know what’s going on over there, but they’ve got a lot of issues.”
New York guard Nate Robinson defended his team.
“It’s not that we don’t care,” he said. “It’s just when you’re playing so hard and nothing is going your way, it’s like taking a deep breath and thinking, `It can’t keep going on like this forever.’ But we’re not quitters.”
New York has lost eight straight and speculation is growing that Thomas might not be coaching much longer.
The awful start has only compounded problems for him and Madison Square Garden after being defeated in a sexual harassment trial.
Knicks fans have been chanting for Thomas to be fired, but the Hall of Fame point guard was welcomed with mostly cheers when he was introduced in an arena where he led the Bad Boys to back-to-back titles.
After the game, former teammates Rick Mahorn and John Long tried to comfort the embattled coach.
“Everybody is throwing him under the bus right now and it’s not right,” Long said. “He has to be accountable for some things, but the bottom line is he can’t make his players play with pride.”
Thomas tried to take the heat off his players before the game, coming off a 26-point loss at home to Golden State and a 32-point setback at Denver.
“It’s not about the players right now. This is where coaching comes in,” Thomas said. “I have to make sure I give my team enough confidence and courage to go out and compete and execute a game plan.
“When you’re in a hole like this, it’s not about the players. It really is about the coach. If I’m depending on a player, then I’m placing responsibility in the wrong place. This is about me doing a better job.”
Thomas and the Knicks started the game with energy, keeping the game close for several minutes.
But despite hearing Thomas scream “Rotate!” or “Stay in front of him!” the Knicks were often out of position, leaving Detroit alone to take and make shots from all over the court.
“They hit a lot of shots, and we didn’t do much,” Randolph said.
Thomas grew quiet as the game got out of reach, crossing his arms and sighing at times as he watched his team unravel again.
Detroit’s Antonio McDyess scored a season-high 20 points after missing three games with a strained left shoulder.
“(Billups) said before the game that there were going to be a lot of open shots,” McDyess said. “I think the team did a real good job moving the ball around.”
Curry had 17 of his 26 points in the first half for the Knicks, but was scoreless in the third quarter when they needed him to keep the game close. Jamal Crawford scored 16 points and Randolph had 13.
The game seemed to be over in the first half.
Detroit closed the first quarter with a 15-4 run and Billups had 10 assists, falling one short of Thomas’ team record for assists in a quarter.
“You can’t play better than that,” Billups said. “It was just one of those nights when everything was going good.”
The Pistons scored the last eight points of the second to take a 55-45 lead.
“We let them get away in the last two minutes of the half,” Thomas said. “That’s a great team and you can’t give them a run like that. You aren’t going to be able to get it back.”
The Knicks didn’t put up much of a fight after halftime even though the Pistons were without Wallace, who did not play in the second half because of a sore left knee. He said the injury is not serious. ^Notes: New York G Stephon Marbury started and had eight points and five assists, playing instead of attending an aunt’s funeral. … Hamilton had six of Detroit’s nine turnovers. … The Pistons have played just three home games this season and eight on the road.