Blake Griffin Brilliant as Pistons Beat Kevin Knox, Knicks

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 28, 2018

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 27:  Reggie Jackson #1 of the Detroit Pistons shoots the ball against the New York Knicks on November 27, 2018 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Detroit Pistons notched their fifth win in six games Tuesday, defeating the New York Knicks 115-108 at Little Caesars Arena.

Blake Griffin led all scorers with 30 points, while Reggie Jackson scored 21 points and dished out four assists. Andre Drummond went scoreless in the first half before getting six points in the second half. He added 14 rebounds and two blocks to pad his stat line.

Knicks swingman Tim Hardaway Jr. finished with 19 points. First-round draft pick Kevin Knox, who played 17 combined minutes in the team's last two games, had four points and three rebounds in 16 minutes.


Knicks Need to Continue Tough Love Approach with Kevin Knox

Some will argue the Knicks should give Knox a larger role in the rotation to speed up his development. In what's clearly a rebuilding year, the team can afford to play Knox for 20-plus minutes a night even if his presence is a net-negative on the court.

But head coach David Fizdale has valid reasons for making Knox earn a promotion to the starting lineup.

Fizdale explained earlier this month how the 19-year-old's effort level was frustratingly inconsistent. By rewarding Knox with more playing time now, the Knicks would risk failing to fix the problem.

Then there's the simple fact Knox has been dreadful when he has played. Real plus-minus isn't a definitive indicator of a player's performance, but it's concerning that Knox ranks 432nd out of 434 players, per ESPN.com. Shooting 1-of-7 from the floor and committing three fouls won't help turn that around.

Knicks Film School @KnickFilmSchool

If Knicks fans didn’t fall in love with Knox during Summer League, despite his age, I wonder what the overall feeling would be right now about his slow start I feel like he is still cashing checks from the summer league hype bank right now

Contrast Knox's usage with that of fellow rookie Allonzo Trier. Trier played 31 minutes Tuesday night and posted a double-double (24 points, 10 rebounds). Trier is basically giving Fizdale no choice but to make him one of the first options off the bench.

Ryan Field @RyanFieldABC

Allonzo Trier is a really, really nice player. Heck of a pickup for Scott Perry and crew, signing the undrafted kid out of Arizona. #NewYorkForever

Fizdale isn't averse to relying on inexperienced players, and he was generally regarded as a coach who made his players better when he was with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Ian Begley @IanBegley

One litmus test for David Fizdale & his staff will be the development of Kevin Knox & Frank Ntilikina over the course of the year. Both had quiet nights in the Knicks’ loss to Detroit. Allonzo Trier, an undrafted rookie, led NYK with 24 points (7-11) & 10 rebounds off the bench.

Knicks fans should trust that Fizdale and his staff know what they're doing when it comes to Knox.


Pistons' Hot Start Has Prepared Them for Tough Upcoming Slate

Pessimists will likely point to the fact the Pistons are one game worse at this stage of the season (11-7) than they were in 2017-18 (12-6).

But that record doesn't capture the atmosphere around the team.

Griffin is re-energized and looking like his old self. After Tuesday, he already has more 30-point games (six) than he did through the entirety of 2017-18 (five).

FOX Sports Detroit @FOXSportsDet

There's got to be a trampoline under the floor right? Oh no that's just Blake Griffin, our bad🚀 https://t.co/Ui6VPEqTfw

Drummond is also playing the best basketball of his career. He entered the game averaging personal bests in points (19.5) and rebounds (16.1) per night and has adapted his game to fit the NBA's emphasis on spacing. His 15 three-point attempts were already a career high.

Drummond didn't impact Tuesday's game with his scoring but found other ways to make his presence felt.

Vince_Ells56 @Vincent_Ellis56

Sign of growth from Drummond so far. Nightmarish game. Missed dunk. Missed 4 FTs. But still at it. Blocked shot and not hunting buckets.

Banking early wins was imperative for Detroit because its schedule is about to get a lot tougher. The Pistons play the Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, New Orleans Pelicans, Charlotte Hornets, Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves in 11 of their next 12 games.

After dropping five straight games at the end of October through early November, things are coming together for Dwane Casey and Co. In what's a more competitive Eastern Conference, the Pistons should be able to maintain their top-four push into the new year.


What's Next?

The Pistons don't return to the court until Friday, when they welcome the Chicago Bulls for the fourth contest of their six-game homestand. The Knicks wrap up the second half of a back-to-back Wednesday at the 76ers.