New York Knicks: Dennis Smith Jr. takes flight in yet another loss

Dennis Smith Jr. shined bright in Friday’s game against the Detroit Pistons, but the New York Knicks lost for the 15th consecutive time.

2018-19 is a lost cause for the New York Knicks. That’s not breaking news. This season turned for the worst after Thanksgiving, or following a three-game win streak that briefly took this team away from the “tank.”

That brings it to Friday’s game against the Detroit Pistons, the second part of a home-at-home that started Tuesday. The Knicks lost their 14th straight matchup then, and Feb. 8, the first game after the trade deadline, was no different.

It was a competitive game into the fourth quarter, but a 31-19 stretch from the Pistons secured it at 120-103. The losses are expected at this point, and player development is all that matters for the remaining two months.

Dennis Smith Jr. was the bright spot, however. With few scoring options around, a clear-cut avenue exists for him to become New York’s top option. Tim Hardaway Jr.’s volume efforts are gone. Wesley Matthews is a Pacer. Trey Burke‘s streaky shooting left for Dallas, as well.

As a result, Smith had a career-high 31 points. He added eight assists, four rebounds and two steals in 34 minutes.

After the game, head coach David Fizdale spoke glowingly of his new starting point guard:

Each performance like this sets Emmanuel Mudiay, who’s out with a shoulder injury, back. His multi-week timeline should mark a return later this month, but as the sophomore guard leads the way, and with the horrendous way this season has gone, there is every reason to look in a different direction.

DeAndre Jordan, the other new addition, supplemented with 14 points and 10 rebounds, marking yet another double-double, along with two blocks. It is about what the Knicks will get from the veteran night to night.

  • Mitchell Robinson had another strong game off the bench: 11 points, six rebounds and three blocks in 15 minutes. These performances are steadily becoming more consistent.
  • The bench was bare, otherwise. No one had more than eight points, and Lance Thomas, Allonzo Trier and Mario Hezonja all struggled in heavy minutes.
  • Luke Kornet is back to the outside of Fizdale’s rotation. He played just three minutes after not appearing in Tuesday’s contest. Jordan and Robinson have the edge for playing time, and Vonleh can handle center in smaller lineups.
  • This was the first game without Enes Kanter, so the post-game interviews should be quiet through April.

The Knicks have little time to rest, as they return home to face the Toronto Raptors on Saturday, Feb. 9.