NEW YORK (AP) — Kemba Walker smiled his way around the court, finally in position to help the Knicks again in his hometown.
“I’m just being myself, trying to do what I can to keep us upbeat,” Walker said. “I think that’s a little bit of what we’ve been missing a little bit throughout the season, throughout the year, is just the overall joy for the game.”
There hadn’t been anything to be happy about at Madison Square Garden lately.
Evan Fournier scored 22 points, Julius Randle and Walker each had 21 and New York won at home for the first time in almost a month, beating the Detroit Pistons 105-91 on Tuesday night.
Mitchell Robinson had 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Knicks, who had dropped five straight at MSG since beating the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 23. They are just 6-10 at home.
“We’re trying to change this thing around before the break, really,” Robinson said.
Walker was out of the rotation entirely but started a second straight game with six players in health and safety protocols and Derrick Rose out again with ankle soreness. The point guard from the Bronx had eight rebounds and five assists.
Saben Lee scored 16 points for the Pistons, who had lost 14 in a row before beating Miami on Sunday. Saddiq Bey and Cory Joseph each had 15.
The Knicks won for just the third time in 11 games overall. They weren’t particularly sharp, but got easy baskets when Robinson either caught lob passes or grabbed offensive rebounds for dunks.
“Mitchell Robinson was just too big for us tonight,” Pistons acting coach Rex Kalamian said. “Everything he caught seemed so high up over the rim. We had no answer for him tonight, unfortunately.”
Robinson was on the bench to begin the game but started the second half, when the Knicks broke it open. He shot 8 for 9 and blocked three shots.
“That’s his best game right there,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It’s a monster game — big play after big play.”
New York led 48-37 at halftime and opened the third quarter with 11 straight points. Fournier had the first basket and made a 3-pointer for the last, which gave the Knicks a 59-37 lead less than two minutes in.
Detroit got some good play from Trey Lyles late in the quarter, cutting it to single digits before New York took an 80-69 lead into the fourth.
The Pistons got it down to five in the final quarter but Robinson had a couple of follow shots, Fournier and Walker made 3s and it was back up to 13 about three minutes later.
“We fought hard, but at the end of the day we still ended up with a loss,” Lee said. “We just have to build on things for the next game.”
New York remained without RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, Kevin Knox II and Miles McBride because of the protocols.
The Pistons played without coach Dwane Casey for personal reasons. Kalamian ran the team, as he did when Casey missed a game last week.
Pistons: No. 1 draft pick Cade Cunningham had seven points, nine rebounds and eight assists, but shot 2 for 13. … Detroit has dropped eight straight on the road.
Knicks: Randle grabbed 11 rebounds. … New York has won the last six meetings.
Because they are so short-handed, the Knicks signed swingman Damyean Dotson and guard Matt Mooney to 10-day contracts Tuesday. Dotson was a second-round pick of the Knicks in 2017 and spent his first three seasons in New York.
Thibodeau said teams prepare during the offseason for changes that will come during the season.
“So when a guy comes in — and in some cases guys who have been here before,” Thibodeau said, “you start off with a small package of things that if they get into the game, these are the things that we’re going to do so they have an understanding, and you continue to add. But it’s all part of a normal season. What is unusual is multiple guys at the same time, so then you have to put a little extra into that.”
Pistons: Visit the Miami Heat on Thursday.
Knicks: Host the Washington Wizards on Thursday.
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