AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — This could have been a statement game for the Knicks, a chance to show something to the team they are chasing for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Instead, the only statement the Knicks made Thursday night in a 111-105 loss to Detroit at the Palace of Auburn Hills is that they are a frustratingly inconsistent team that doesn’t have what it takes to win on a regular basis.
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By various turns, the Knicks trailed by 27 points, led by two and fell short at the end. As strange and entertaining as it may have been, all that really mattered is that the Knicks lost their fourth straight game and their seventh in the last eight. That left them in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, 4 1⁄2 games out of a playoff spot.
“We just didn’t come to play at the start,” Derek Fisher said. “We put ourselves in a position where we had to have everything go right for us down the stretch on the road. That’s a hard thing to do in this league.”
The Knicks almost did it, taking their only lead of the game at 97-95 on Robin Lopez’s layup with 2:14 left. But a quick three-pointer by Anthony Tolliver and two more three-pointers by Reggie Jackson gave the Pistons a 104-99 lead with 38.9 seconds left.
Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis struggled for most of the game. Anthony, who finished with 19 points and shot 4-for-18, did not score in the fourth quarter. Porzingis scored only five points and shot 2-for-9.
“There’s no explanation. That’s not us,” Porzingis said. “The first half we had is not us, obviously, and we have to start the game the way we started the second half. Then it won’t cost us as much energy and effort to get back in the game.”
The Pistons went ahead 52-25 with three minutes remaining in the second quarter and still led by 24 early in the third quarter.
“They jumped out to a lead, got the confidence and things just kept happening,” Jose Calderon said. “It was hard to come back from that.”
“I don’t think we offered any resistance in the first half,” Arron Afflalo said. “It’s tough to win when you have a half like that.”
Afflalo helped bring the Knicks back, scoring 19 of his 24 points in the Knicks’ 69-point second half. Langston Galloway had a huge fourth quarter, scoring 12 of his 17 points, including a three-pointer that tied the score at 95. Lopez was the only Knick who played consistently well throughout, scoring a season- high 26 points and grabbing a season-high 16 rebounds.
The victory moved the Pistons (27-24) into a virtual tie with Indiana for the seventh and eighth playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The loss dropped the Knicks a season-worst six games under .500 at 23-29, with a game against the Grizzlies (29-20) on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
Stanley Johnson scored 22, Jackson added 21 and Andre Drummond had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Pistons.
The Knicks trailed 60-36 at the half, and the team that entered the locker room at halftime felt shell-shocked.
“We dug ourselves a big hole and felt embarrassed,” Anthony said.
Fisher said he talked to the players at halftime but that what happened in the second half came from them.
Said Fisher: “This has to mean as much to you as anything else in life because this is what you’ve chosen to do. They made that decision at halftime and gave themselves a chance to win.”