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Knicks continue to struggle on defensive end in loss to Pistons

Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris fights for position

Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris fights for position under the net with New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, right, and forward Kristaps Porzingis during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, in Auburn Hills, Mich. Credit: AP / Carlos Osorio

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — So much attention is being paid to what offense the Knicks are running and how often they’re in the triangle. But the Knicks are showing they need to focus more on playing defense, and one that doesn’t have holes all over the court.

The Detroit Pistons scored 64 first-half points and went on to beat the Knicks, 102-89, Tuesday night at the Palace. The Knicks are 1-2 and have allowed at least 102 points in each game, leading to Derrick Rose bringing up the name of his old coach and defensive task master Tom Thibodeau.

The Rockets and their high-powered offense under former Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni visit Madison Square Garden Wednesday night. They scored 120 on the Cavaliers Tuesday night so Houston could have a field day on the Knicks, who allowed Detroit to shoot 8-for-13 from three-point range. .

But the Knicks’ execution was poor on both ends. Offensively, the ball didn’t move and they played too much one-on-one, especially with the game on the line. They cut a 12-point deficit to 94-89 with 5:40 left. The Knicks didn’t score again. They were 0-for-9 with two turnovers, and scored just 10 points in the fourth quarter.

“It just didn’t go down,” Rose said. “When shots aren’t falling that’s when we have to depend on our defense even more. We have to play the type of game where if we’re having a hard time scoring you’re definitely going to have a hard time scoring. That’s the mentality and the culture we’re trying to build.”

Later Rose referenced how Thibodeau turned the Bulls into a hard-nosed, tough, defensive team, which is something the Knicks haven’t been in years.

“I played on teams before Thibs got to Chicago we didn’t have an identity and he came and changed the culture there and he changed the identity. We can do that here. We have to, and we’re going to. But it takes time. It takes time to build that culture and that effort and making sure that guys give that extra effort for everyone on the team.”

Carmelo Anthony scored 24 points. Rose added 19 and Kristaps Porzingis 18.

Former Half Hollow Hills star Tobias Harris shot 8-for-12 and finished with a game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds. Marcus Morris was 9-for-14 with 22 points and Kentavius Caldwell-Pope 7-for-11 with 19 points, including 4 of 6 on three-pointers.

“Right now defensively we’re not on the same page and offensively we’re not on the same page as well,” Joakim Noah said.

Despite an awful start in which the Knicks allowed 32 points in each of the first two quarters, they still had a chance down the stretch.

After Harris hit a short jumper to put the Pistons up 93-83, the Knicks got it back to within five at 94-89 on a Rose bank shot with 5:40 left.

They could have gotten closer on the next four trips. But a Rose floater bounced off the rim and over the backboard. Anthony had the ball stolen from him and then was short on a foul-line jumper on the next possession. And Lance Thomas missed a jump shot.

“I don’t think we ran anything,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We just came down and someone ran over and set a screen, somebody popped out and tried to go one-on-one. We’ve got to trust each other to execute and set something up for another guy.

“I thought our team on the whole for most of the night was just looking for their own shots. We’ve got guys out there that can make plays. But that’s what happens if you don’t. You have stretches where it looks really good and then stretches really bad. Unfortunately for us that fourth quarter was bad.”

The Pistons went up by seven after two Morris’ free throws and extended to 99-89 when Caldwell-Pope made a three-pointer with 2:47 left. The Knicks continued their struggles offensively, but many of the players were more disappointed with the defense.

“We just didn’t come out with the right intensity,” Noah said. “We can’t give up baskets like that especially in the beginning of the game when you’re giving up layups and open shots”

“It’s not the end of the world. But it’s disappointing because we know that we’re more than capable to be better.”

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