Playing against their former team Saturday night apparently sparked the struggling New York Knicks’ duo of Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker.
But if the Knicks are going to begin climbing back into the Eastern Conference playoff race, they’ll probably need Fournier and Walker to continue their surges Tuesday night when New York hosts the Detroit Pistons.
Both teams head into the game in extended swoons, though the Pistons snapped a 14-game losing streak Sunday night by beating the visiting Miami Heat 100-90.
The Knicks lost for the eighth time in 10 games Saturday, when they overcame a 15-point halftime deficit to carry a two-point lead into the fourth quarter before falling to the host Celtics 114-107.
Fournier — 32 points, tying the season high he set against the Celtics in the season opener Oct. 20 — and Walker (season-high 29 points) combined to score more than half the points Saturday for the Knicks. They were especially prolific in the third quarter, when Walker scored 17 and Fournier added 11 as New York outscored Boston 41-24.
“We fell short and couldn’t come out with the win, which is the most important thing,” Walker said.
Such performances were what the Knicks had in mind when they traded for Fournier, who finished 2020-21 with the Celtics following a trade from the Orlando Magic, and signed Walker, who played the last two years in Boston, as part of a summertime shopping spree intended to help New York take another step following last season’s surprising trip to the playoffs.
But the season hasn’t gone as anticipated for anyone in New York. The Knicks have gone 8-16 since a 5-1 start to fall into 12th place in the Eastern Conference. Fournier has been held to less than 10 points 12 times in 30 games while seeing his minutes reduced.
And Walker was a healthy scratch the previous nine games before Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau — overseeing a roster missing six players due to COVID-19 protocols as well as Derrick Rose (ankle) — had no choice but to put him back in the lineup Saturday.
“When you’re watching, you don’t really (know) how much (of) an impact it has on you sitting so long with rhythm and confidence,” Fournier said. “It was good to see Kemba smiling again.”
The Pistons, who have the worst record in the NBA at 5-24, finally got to smile Sunday after ending what was tied for the longest losing streak in franchise history Detroit also suffered 14 straight losses during the 1979-80 and 1993-94 seasons.
Saddiq Bey scored 26 points Sunday as the youthful Pistons — who suffered seven losses in their skid by 10 points or less — were able to close out the Heat, who got within five points in the fourth quarter.
The 22-year-old Bey qualifies as an elder statesman in a starting lineup Sunday that featured three 20-year-olds — 2021 No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham as well as Isaiah Stewart and Killian Hayes — and 23-year-old Hamidou Diallo.
“(The losing) bothers you, but that’s not what this season is about,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “I’m not caught up in 14 straight. I’m caught up in these guys growing and developing. Sooner or later, all this stuff is going to click.”
–Field Level Media