Detroit has played its first eight games this season without All-Star forward Blake Griffin, who is awaiting medical clearance after rehabbing hamstring and knee injuries. Starting point guard Reggie Jackson will miss at least a month of action due to a stress reaction in his lower back. Jackson's backups, Derrick Rose (hamstring) and Tim Frazier (shoulder), have missed the past two games.
Second-year guard Bruce Brown, who had been the starting shooting guard, has been moved to point guard during their absences. Swingman Luke Kennard has taken more ball-handling responsibilities as well.
It worked out fine in a victory over Brooklyn on Saturday but the duo faltered in a 115-99 loss at Washington on Monday, combining for nine of the team's 21 turnovers.
"I think we are learning from this. It is definitely a learning experience for me, having the ball a lot more," Kennard said. "So we have to keep on going with it. Just keep on working at it, but we have to take that leadership. It is not easy. Kind of figuring that out right now."
What coach Dwane Casey saw was a lack of ball movement and patience.
"I thought we tried to go a little bit too much one-on-one instead of moving the ball, making the right pass, playing with each other," he said. "And that's the only way we're going to win without our main guys out, is moving the ball, playing together. I thought we did that against Brooklyn but you can't do a once-a-week type approach. You've got to have it each and every night, a consistent approach."
The Knicks haven't played since Sunday, when they were blown out at home by Sacramento 113-92. They trailed by 20 at halftime and couldn't mount a comeback in the second half.
New York was coming off a two-point loss at Boston.
"Can't really learn from it. We weren't five men as a unit," forward Julius Randle said. "We weren't trusting each other. It's a setback and it's discouraging."
Forward Marcus Morris scored 28 points but the other frontcourt starters, Randle and Bobby Portis, combined for 10 points on 5-for-19 shooting.
Since scoring 25 points in the opener, Randle has been in an offensive funk. He's averaged 11.5 points, shot 38.4 percent from the field and missed all 14 of his 3-point attempts.
Randle isn't used to defenses loaded up on him and he's trying to adjust.
"He hasn't seen (teams) running two and three people at him before," coach David Fizdale told the New York Post. "It's just a matter of him learning how to play against those defenses and understanding how to attack them."
The bright spot has been the play of lottery pick RJ Barrett, who has quickly emerged as the starting point guard. Barrett is averaging 18.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 37.1 minutes per game.
Fizdale bristled when reporters questioned why Barrett played 41 minutes in the blowout loss to the Kings.
"We've got to get off this load-management (nonsense)," he said. "Latrell Sprewell averaged 42 minutes for a season. This kid is 19. Drop it already."
Detroit swept the four-game series last season, including the regular-season finale that clinched a playoff berth. The Pistons have the won the past seven meetings.
--Field Level Media