NEW YORK (AP) — The All-Star Game is up next for Julius Randle. The playoffs might be there later for his team.
Randle capped his breakout first half with 27 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists, sending the New York Knicks into the break with a winning record after a 114-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night.
RJ Barrett added 21 points to help the Knicks improve to 19-18 in their first season under Tom Thibodeau. They have missed the playoffs for seven straight years but finished the first half in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
“As a group we’re not satisfied,” Randle said. “We haven’t accomplished what we want to accomplish.”
It’s been an unexpected rise for the longtime losers fueled by Randle, the workhorse power forward who was rewarded with his first All-Star selection.
“He’s a great worker and sets a great example for the team,” Thibodeau said. “So he’s been terrific and the impact on winning has been huge.”
So has Thibodeau’s, the former Coach of the Year whose players have taken to his style of outworking the competition.
“We still have a lot of things that we have to clean up, but I think hard work is always going to make up for it,” Barrett said.
Elfrid Payton had 20 points after missing the last four games with a sore right hamstring.
Wayne Ellington scored 17 points for the Pistons, who came nowhere near duplicating their play from a night earlier, when they routed Toronto 129-105. They had 43 points after one quarter in that game but barely surpassed that by halftime of this one, reaching the midpoint of their schedule at 10-27, worst in the East.
Coach Dwane Casey pointed to the growth of the Pistons’ many young players and sees good things ahead for the franchise.
“It’s just so many good things that are going on and unfortunately they’re not coming out as ‘Ws,’” Casey said.
Mason Plumlee, one of two Pistons with triple-doubles against Toronto, followed that with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
New York’s lead was 48-44 after Isaiah Stewart’s follow shot with 3:52 remaining in the half. The Knicks then ran off 11 straight points, most of the baskets at or near the rim, to open a 15-point cushion and took a 59-46 lead to the break.
The Knicks made 15-of-23 shots (65%) in the third, opening a 20-point lead before taking a 93-74 advantage to the fourth. Detroit cut it to 10 in the fourth and was about to get closer when it got the ball underneath to an open Plumlee, but Randle swooped in to block the shot and the Knicks found Barrett alone on the other end to make it 103-91.
The Pistons were the opponent in the last NBA game played at Madison Square Garden in front of a full crowd. The Knicks beat them 96-84 last March 8 before beginning a three-game road trip they never finished because the season was suspended three nights later because of the coronavirus.
Pistons: Detroit has dropped four straight against New York after winning the previous eight meetings. … Former Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr., who also had a triple-double Wednesday, scored 12 points but had just two assists and two rebounds.
Knicks: Derrick Rose missed his second straight game for health and safety protocol reasons. … The Knicks showed highlights of some dunks by Obi Toppin on the overhead video screen during a timeout late in the first quarter and congratulated him on being chosen to compete in the All-Star slam dunk contest. They also wished a happy birthday to the rookie, who turned 23 Thursday.
NOT ON SCHEDULE
The Pistons closed the first half with a back-to-back, when originally they weren’t scheduled to play either night. Detroit was supposed to close its first half Tuesday with a road game against Toronto, before that game was pushed back a day because of the Raptors’ coronavirus issues. The game Thursday in New York was originally targeted for the second half before the NBA recently added it to Thursday’s schedule.
Pistons: At Charlotte on March 11.
Knicks: At Milwaukee on March 11.