Knicks’ road woes reach new low in brutal late loss to Pistons

DETROIT — Kristaps Porzingis made buckets this time — aplenty.

But it wasn’t enough, because the Knicks always find ways to lose away from the Garden. Friday night, they blew a four-point lead in the final 1:14 to ruin Porzingis’ bounce-back, 29-point night in a 104-101 loss to the Pistons at Little Caesars Arena.

The Knicks have had precious few games this season go down to a final possession and their inexperience in late-game execution showed in the final 24 seconds — with Courtney Lee wearing the goat horns.

With the Knicks down one, Lee had a driving shot blocked by Reggie Bullock with 16 seconds left. Trailing by three, Lee looked like he was going to launch a potential 3-pointer in the final seconds, but instead threw an errant pass to Porzingis, who had to fire up a desperation 35-foot heave — which missed everything — before the buzzer.

Lee sat like a stone at his locker for several minutes after the Knicks fell to 2-10 on the road.

“Yeah, it’s definitely frustrating,’’ Lee said. “We’re up at the end of the game and a couple of mistakes where those last final possessions, we messed up two plays out there and rushed one play so it was definitely self-inflicted. It was definitely frustrating. You can keep saying it but it’s true.’’

It’s the Knicks’ second heartbreaking loss this season to the Pistons, who rallied from 21 down to ruin their home opener. But the road woes are alarming, especially with the schedule turning drastically after the Christmas Day game at the Garden versus the 76ers. After Christmas, 16 of the Knicks’ next 20 games are away from MSG.

Courtney Lee gets his shot blocked by Reggie Bullocks in the closing seconds of the Knicks’ loss.Getty Images

Center Enes Kanter, who had a strong night with 22 points and 16 rebounds despite a cut lip that needed two stitches, sounded the alarm regarding the need for late-game precision and mettle on the road.

“For the last whatever minutes, we just need to know how to finish the games,’’ Kanter said. “Especially the fourth quarters are really important for us. If we’re talking about playoffs, we need to figure it out. It’s too important, man. If a team doesn’t know how to win on the road, then even if we make the playoffs, we’re not going to go that far. We need to learn how to win on the road, especially when the crowd is not behind us, when the fans are not behind us, we need to have the same energy as when we are home.’’

Porzingis, who was 0-for-11 from the field (scoring one point) in the Knicks’ win over the Celtics on Thursday, banged in a left-wing jumper to make it 101-97 with 1:14 left. Then the Knicks fell apart.

The Pistons tied it at 101 and combo guard Ron Baker committed a bad turnover, losing the ball on a drive. Detroit’s Reggie Jackson was fouled and made 1-of-2 free throws to give the Pistons a 102-101 lead with 24 seconds left.

Off a timeout, coach Jeff Hornacek called a play for Lee — not Porzingis. He got penetration, but couldn’t finish over Bullock, though Lee thought he was fouled.

“The play was KP to hand it off to me and attack right and try to get all the way to the rim,’’ Lee said. “Bullock cut me off. I tried to step through. I thought it was contact, so I tried to lean in and shoot the ball but they didn’t call the foul.’’

Hornacek wasn’t so sure, saying Lee “probably could’ve drawn the contact” better than he did. After Stanley Johnson’s two free throws put Detroit up three, it was Lee again with the ball up top and he jumped for the shot before trying to reverse it to Porzingis — a bad miscue with so little time.

“I was going through the shooting motion and he jumped up in front of me,’’ Lee said. “I had no choice but to try to pass it.”

Porzingis finished the night 12-of-28, but never got a legitimate chance with the ball in his hands in the final 24 seconds.

“We just didn’t execute the plays,’’ Porzingis said. “We rushed some things. We just didn’t execute. We didn’t run the play the right way. There’s nothing — we have to run the plays the right way, everybody, including myself.”

“At the end in games like this it’s all going to be about the little things at the end — execution, the right pass, the right shot,’’ said Porzingis, who scored 19 points in the second half. “That’s where, in these close games, that’s where the win or loss is.”

The Knicks trailed 93-85 with 7:20 left, but stormed back, going on a 14-2 run. Porzingis made a dangerous tandem with Kanter, who was an offensive-rebounding machine with eight.

This time, the Knicks didn’t get much from Michael Beasley, who followed up his heroic 32-point night with six points on 3-for-6 shooting. In 13 minutes, Beasley was a team-worst minus-19.

Long Island’s Tobias Harris led the Pistons with 24 points and center Andre Drummond scored 18 points with 15 rebounds.

The Knicks fell behind 15-2 at the start in their first moments in the new arena, but righted themselves in the second half and were ready to pull it out.

With Carmelo Anthony on the squad last season, Porzingis has had little chances to win a game on the final possession.

“Of course, of course [I do], but a lot of times it’s also me knowing that guys are not leaving me,’’ Porzingis said. “So it’s my job to set a good screen so the guy can get open. Sometimes I’m slipping too quick. I can do a better job at that. Whatever we’re running, executing the right way, that will make the difference.”

Source: https://nypost.com/2017/12/22/knicks-road-woes-reach-new-low-in-brutal-late-loss-to-pistons/

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