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February 20, 2019

Dennis Smith Jr. scores career-high 31 but Knicks lose 15th straight

February 9, 2019

DETROIT — It was another relaxing fourth quarter for Blake Griffin.

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Andre Drummond had 29 points and 20 rebounds, and the Detroit Pistons handed New York its 15th straight loss, beating the Knicks 120-103 on Friday night. The Knicks rallied from a 21-point second-quarter deficit, tying the game in the third. But Detroit avoided a repeat of its collapse last weekend against the Los Angeles Clippers, when the Pistons lost after leading by 25.

Since that game, Detroit has won three in a row, and in two of those victories — including Friday’s — the game was so lopsided down the stretch that Griffin didn’t play at all in the final period.

Dennis Smith Jr. dunks Friday night against Pistons. (Carlos Osorio / AP)

“Beyond the wins, we’re playing with the right spirit and playing basketball the right way,” Griffin said. “The basketball gods reward you when you play the right way, and being able to take a fourth quarter off has been really nice — especially at this time of the season.”

The Knicks have lost 28 of their last 30, and they looked overmatched at the start against Detroit, falling behind 21-5. It was 41-22 after one quarter, and the Pistons led 63-54 at halftime. Drummond had 20 points at the break.

New York kept chipping away in the third, but Detroit eventually recovered, leading 89-84 after three and pushing the lead back to double digits relatively quickly in the fourth.

Dennis Smith Jr. scored a career-high 31 points for the Knicks.

“We’ve just got to bring that intensity every night and if we do that, I think the wins will start to pile up,” Smith said. “Tonight, I thought we brought it, but it was on me. I’ve got to make free throws.”

Griffin scored 26 points for the Pistons, who traded Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson in deadline deals but kept enough of their top players to make a postseason berth still plausible. Detroit began the day 1 ½ games out of a playoff spot.

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The Knicks finished 26 of 41 on free throws, and Smith was 11 of 19. He went 1 of 6 in the fourth.

“It just ends up breaking you when you don’t hit those shots, especially after you gain so much momentum fighting back,” coach David Fizdale said. “But, I was pretty proud of the way the kids battled back and got themselves into that game.”

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