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The Pistons v the Knicks - 10 facts you need to know
Thursday, 10 January 2013
THE New York Knicks take on the Detroit Pistons when the 02 hosts the giants of American basketball next Thursday.
But who are the stars to watch - and why is it a pivotal game in the season for both clubs, following the 121-100 blow-out win for the Knicks at their first game in November?
Here we list 10 facts about the head to head - and leave it to you to decide who you will be rooting for.
1. Knicks dominance
The Knicks have gone through a series of changes to the team and the management recently, chasing a championship that has eluded them since their last win in 1973 against the LA Lakers.
This season they have promoted Mike Woodson from assistant to head coach as a result of Mike D’Antoni’s departure to the LA Lakers; strategically built up their roster to include superstars Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony; and let go of their surprise off-the-bench success story Jeremy Lin.
Whatever they did, it seems to be working as the Knicks started the season with a hot 6-0 win streak, and are one of the few teams in the league who are undefeated at home to date.
2. Stepping out of the shadows: Mike Woodson
In 2008 Mike D’Antoni was offered a lucrative opportunity to coach the Knicks, which he accepted with a price tag of $24 million. The strategy worked – to some degree at least – and he led them to the play-offs that season, before they fell to Boston.
In 2012 he left for the LA Lakers, to be replaced by his assistant coach Mike Woodson, himself a former player in the league. Although he did not have the vast coaching experience of his predecessor, Woodson did have a few feathers in his cap including leading the Atlanta Hawks from repeatedly missing the play-offs, to reaching the conference semi-finals in both 2009 and 2010.
Under Woodson’s leadership, the Knicks’ confidence, depth and game strategies have improved, with a great start to the season that Woodson will no doubt hope continues through to the championship finals.
3. The superstar: Carmelo Anthony
Speculation was rife at the start of the 2010/2011 season when Carmelo Anthony, an all-star small forward known for his abilities as a shotmaker and for being able to carry his team to the play-offs, announced that he would not be renewing his contract with the Denver Nuggets, a team that he had been with since the start of his career.
Although he had stated that his preference would be to go to New York, the trade wasn’t agreed by the time the season started and he played his first few games still for the Nuggets.
His move was then finalised in February 2011, and he went on to carry the Knicks to the play-offs where they lost in the first round to Boston.
Since then, especially under Woodson’s tutelage, Anthony has proven himself to be a key cog in the Knicks set-up, leading them to their first play-off win since 2001 in the 2011/2012 season. In the current campaign, so far, Anthony is still carrying the mantle as an MVP-calibre shotmaker, averaging 27 points a game for the Knicks.
4. Losing Linsanity
When D’Antoni picked third-string point guard Jeremy Lin off the bench in an ailing quarter of an ailing game against the New Jersey Nets in February 2012, few people could have predicted that it would snowball into a remarkable winning streak and subsequent fan hysteria dubbed “Linsanity”.
Lin scored 25 points in that game and became known for his offensive abilities, enabling the Knicks to build their offensive strategy, and putting them on a seven-win streak despite the absence of their star players Anthony and Stoudemire.
When Lin signed to the Houston Rockets in 2012, much was said about whether it was the right decision. Either way, Lin brought a burst of renewed vigour and confidence to the team - and attention -that has continued into this season.
5. Old new point guard: Raymond Felton
This season, Felton came to the Knicks off a career low from Portland, with stacks of stats painting him as a middle-tier point guard who can’t seem to find any consistency in his game.
However, an extra twist in the plot is that Felton is not new to the Knicks; he played with them for a short period in 2010, during which he and Stoudemire built up a strong partnership. This synergy with Stoudemire is widely touted as one of the reasons the Knicks signed him, along with the more obvious financial considerations - and the hope is that they will once again bring out the best in each other. Opinions are split on the old new point guard, with half the camp saying he is overrated and has an unfortunate penchant for missing shots, and the other camp saying that, statistically at least, he is still outperforming Lin over in Houston. The main objective, however, is not how he compares to Lin, but what he can do for the Knicks for the rest of the season.
1. Title winners in 2004
It wasn’t that long ago that the Detroit Pistons were a championship team. They started the 2003/2004 season with the replacement of Rick Carlisle for Hall of Famer Larry Brown as the head coach, and signing of Rasheed Wallace, to complete a roster of big guys including Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups.
It paid off and, despite the odds, the Pistons beat the Milwaukee Bucks, New Jersey Nets and Indiana Pacers to reach the finals and face the LA Lakers - a formidable team of household names like Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton and Karl Malone.
Within 5 games, the Pistons won the series convincingly, with Chauncey Billups named NBA Finals MVP.
2. Slide into relative obscurity
Following their 2004 win, Detroit were still playing good basketball despite controversies involving brawls, injuries and rows. As with every other team, there were trades and releases of players, and Larry Brown was replaced by Flip Saunders as head coach, but their record remained strong and they went on to reach the conference finals against the San Antonio Spurs in 2005.
However, in the years that followed, injuries and controversies marred their performances - as did the loss of key players Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and Richard Hamilton to other teams.
In 2009/2010, the Pistons had their worst record since 1994, not even making the play-offs and being eliminated with a 27–55 loss record. Since then, they’ve been trying to battle their way back up to the top of the leaderboards.
3. Youngblood: Greg Monroe
Greg Monroe is a big part of the team -along with Andre Drummond. He is arguably Detroit’s best player at the moment - and he was only drafted in 2010.
But at the end of that season, he had proved to be one of the most solid and consistent rookies.
According to SynergySports, Monroe is most successful when he's put in situations where he's moving, such as when he's cutting (running from the wing to catch a pass from the player who has the ball) and when he's the screener in the pick-and-roll (setting a screen for a teammate handling the ball then taking a pass as he slips behind the opposing defender).
Recent figures show that he shoots 57.1 percent and scores 1.15 points per possession in the pick-and-roll, and 64.1 percent with 1.17 points per possession as the cutter. This is good shooting and point-scoring.
4. Winning at home, losing on the road
Detroit have an abysmal record of losing on the road. At home, Monroe has a higher shooting percentage than he does when he’s away. Also, he is only put into cutter and screener positions, where he is most dominant, 18.3% of the time. Why not play him in his most effective positions more when Detroit are on the road?
5. New tactics, new strategies
Detroit changed tack in 2011, switching ownership to private equity billionaire Tom Gores, acquiring a new coach in Lawrence Frank, and focussing on building a team around a young core and rookies including Rodney Stuckey, Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe.
Among other shifts, their plan is to establish a synergy between the team’s big men, Monroe and Drummond. The Detroit Pistons still have a way to go to reach the play-offs and win a championship. But the changes that they have been making do represent a shift in the right direction.
This is an intriguing season for the Pistons. With a revamped team and management, will they be able to become championship contenders once again?
Thursday's game might give us some clues.
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