The New York Knicks towered over London on Thursday night, defeating the Detroit Pistons 102-87 at The 02 Arena with Carmelo Anthony hitting a game-high 26 points.
But after rolling into a 16-2 lead, and dominating the first half, they were made to fight for their victory in front of a capacity crowd filled with celebrities from sport and entertainment – plus James Corden.
In the NBA’s third-ever regular season game in Europe, the Knicks welcomed back Iman Shumpert and made themselves at home, rolling to a 56-41 half-time lead.
A 14-2 run in the third helped cut the advantage to 67-63 but that was as good as it got for Detroit.
The Knicks reeled off 15 of the next 20 points and the spoils from the trans-Atlantic trip were theirs.
“When we made the decision to come, when Commissioner Stern made the call and asked us to do it from day one, I was excited about it because I thought it would be towards the half-way mark, it breaks our season up a little bit and it gives us an opportunity to get away with our families and bond together,” said Knicks coach Mike Woodson.
“I thought we did that. But the guys still treated it as a regular season game. The importance of this game, they came out ready to play and do what they had to do to secure the win.”
It was only when Pistons coach Lawrence Frank began to make changes to the line-up that his team got back into the game with Rodney Stuckey, Andre Drummond and Will Bynum helping Detroit get going offensively.
But the Knicks continued to control the game with Anthony leading the way and hearing the occasional smattering of MVP chants from the London crowd.
Leading 29-17 after one, the Knicks’ surge continued in the second quarter as they built their biggest lead of the game at 44-24. The Pistons began to cut into the deficit but still found themselves trailing by 15.
The third quarter saw the game change direction as the Pistons began to fight their way back into the game. Prince and Bynum led the charge as they cut the deficit to 67-63 on a layup from Greg Monroe with a little over 2 minutes left in the quarter.
It was the closest the Pistons had been since the opening minutes of the game but any hopes of cutting the lead further evaporated as the Knicks went on an 8-0 run for a 75-63 advantage going into the final quarter.
The Pistons made another run early in the fourth quarter as Prince and Charlie Villaneuva cut the deficit to 77-68, but the Knicks replied immediately with a three-pointer from Steve Novak and went on to lead 92-75 with 3.01 remaining, finally shutting the door on the Pistons hopes of a win.
“Tonight we got off to a great start,” said Anthony. “To get up 16-2 by playing defence and making shots, that’s when the game is fun, when we get out in transition, getting stops. We’re scoring and the other team doesn’t score.”
Will Bynum led Detroit with 22.
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