The New York Knicks have reached the 20-game mark and they're not close to living up to their expectations.
New York has wallowed in mediocrity, unable to put together a solid stretch of performances. The Knicks have lost four of their last five, dropping to 9-11 as they make a quick visit to Detroit to face the Pistons on Tuesday.
"Lot of work to do," Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Just keep concentrating on getting better, improving and get ready for the next one. Don't look backwards, don't look ahead, just look at exactly what's in front of us. That's where I want us to be."
The last two losses, both at home, have been particularly excruciating. They lost to Portland 132-129 in overtime, then fell to Memphis 127-123.
Jalen Brunson, the pricey free agent signed to get New York back into the postseason, missed two shots in the lane during the closing seconds against Memphis. Those misses came after Grizzlies star guard Ja Morant gave his team the lead with a putback.
"I say this all the time: My teammates and coaches have a lot of trust in me. They welcomed me with open arms," Brunson said. "That hurts when I can't pull through for them."
Brunson finished with 30 points, the third consecutive time he reached the 30-point mark.
"He played hard, made a lot of clutch shots throughout the fourth quarter for us," Thibodeau said. "It came down to the end. Mitch (Mitchell Robinson) made a heck of a block and Morant came up with the ball and put it back in. That's the difference between winning and losing right there."
The Knicks already have beaten the Pistons twice, both at Madison Square Garden. The first meeting was a 130-106 blowout on Oct. 21. Then on Nov. 11, R.J. Barrett had a 30-point game in a 121-112 victory.
Following Tuesday's contest, New York returns home for four games.
The Pistons have the worst record in the league (5-17), in part because they've been decimated by injuries. Star guard Cade Cunningham is pondering season-ending shin surgery.
A trio of other starters missed their 102-94 loss to Cleveland on Sunday. Bojan Bogdanovic and Jaden Ivey sat out with knee soreness while Isaiah Stewart was sidelined by a toe injury.
Saddiq Bey, the team's other regular starter, scored 15 points after missing the previous four games due to an ankle injury.
Detroit led by five entering the fourth quarter but were then outscored 29-16.
"Everyone came in and contributed, which was good to see," Bey said. "We just need to be a little more disciplined down the stretch."
The Pistons shot 53.8 percent in the first half and finished with a 45.6 percentage.
"They have one of the best defenses in the NBA, and they really stepped it up in the fourth quarter," coach Dwane Casey said of the Cavaliers. "The baskets we were getting in the first quarter weren't there in the fourth and we didn't do enough to adjust."
Free-throw shooting played a role as the Pistons missed 12 of 26 attempts in the eight-point defeat.
"Some of the time, it is just that simple -- you have to make your free throws," Casey said. "Our guys worked hard to get to the line, but you have to score when you get there."
--Field Level Media