AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - At times, there were more shots being fired in the Knicks' locker room last night than there were on the basketball court.
The Knicks, who were so impressive in the month of December, suffered their fourth defeat in five games as they lost, 94-90, to a troubled Pistons team.
After falling behind by 21 points with 50 seconds left in the third quarter, the Knicks moved to within two on Danilo Gallinari's three free throws with 17.9 seconds left, but Chucky Atkins sank two free throws to seal it.
Now it's the Knicks who are looking a bit troubled both on and off the court. A major subtext to the game was the deteriorating relationship between Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni and guard Larry Hughes. Before the game, Hughes revealed that he had gone to team president Donnie Walsh to talk about why he hadn't played since Dec. 30. Then, after D'Antoni played him for a little less than nine minutes in the second quarter, Hughes called the situation "a joke.''
D'Antoni took some shots of his own after the game, taking his players to task for the way they came out on the floor.
"Lack of energy, lack of focus and lack of urgency,'' he said. "I don't think the main guys that were playing came out with any desire to win.''
One player who did play with some pretty impressive desire was Jordan Hill, who played the final 12:50 and seemed to spark the Knicks' rally. Hill finished with six points and three rebounds.
Gallinari led the Knicks - who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday - with 27 points. David Lee scored 26 points, 16 of which came in the first quarter, and added 17 rebounds and nine assists. The Pistons (14-25), who recently ended a 13-game losing streak, were led by Rodney Stuckey's 20 points and Charlie Villanueva's 19.
It's been an unbelievably frustrating year for Pistons fans, who expected to have a competitive team after the organization was one of the few big spenders last summer. Instead, a series of injuries got Detroit off to a terrible start. Against the Knicks, they were missing Tayshaun Prince and Ben Gordon.
There's been a lot of talk in Detroit lately about how the Pistons made a big mistake by not signing Lee, who was a free agent last summer, and instead going with Gordon and Villanueva. Lee, who could be headed for his first All-Star Game, had a 30-point, 12-rebound game against the Pistons on Dec. 29.
Lee appeared to be headed for another big game when he had 16 points and four rebounds in the first quarter, which the Knicks finished ahead 24-23.
D'Antoni began the second quarter by going to Hughes for the first time in eight games, but his return was nothing like the one Nate Robinson enjoyed after D'Antoni ended his string of 14 straight DNP-Coach's Decisions. Robinson scored 41 points in his first game back. Hughes went scoreless.