Detroit Pistons clinch playoff spot with win over Knicks

NEW YORK — A loud subset of fans would prefer the Detroit Pistons have a chance at Duke star Zion Williamson.

That’s not happening, and the Pistons aren’t apologizing.

The Pistons (41-41) clinched a playoff spot Wednesday night with a 115-89 victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on the last evening of the NBA regular season — the franchise’s second playoff appearance under owner Tom Gores, who was seated courtside.

BOX SCORE:  PISTONS 115, KNICKS 89

Blake Griffin was out with the sore left knee that’s limited the Pistons star late in the season. That left it for Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard to bring it home.

Drummond, who has been dominant in the season’s second half, delivered 20 points, 18 rebounds and three steals.

Jackson scored 14 of 21 points in the first quarter and added seven assists.

And Kennard scored 27 points — one off a career high.

With the appearance, the Pistons are declining a lottery pick that had a slim chance to bring Williamson to Detroit.

The Pistons will be making their second playoff appearance in the last decade and earn a chance at their first playoff victory since May 26, 2008. Game 3 of the first-round series will be the first professional playoff game at Little Caesars Arena with the Detroit Red Wings failing to reach the postseason during the two years of the arena’s existence.

After an Orlando Magic win over Charlotte, the Pistons are the No. 8 seed and will face No. 1 seed Milwaukee (who are 4-0 against the Pistons this season) .

The Pistons were expected to fight for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference going into the season.

More: Pistons’ stunning rally a reminder of what ‘Detroit Basketball’ can be

Jackson gets it started

With Griffin on the bench in street clothes, the Pistons needed offense from Jackson.

A tall order considering Jackson has slumped lately, shooting 33 percent from 3-point range and 36 percent from the field in the Pistons’ last five games going into Wednesday night.

But he went to work early.

An 18-foot bank shot gave the Pistons an early 16-6 lead.

His second 3-pointer pushed the lead to 21-11 at the 6:02 mark.

And his 3-point play gave the Pistons a 32-20 lead.

Jackson finished with 14 points in leading the Pistons to a 36-22 lead after the first quarter.

Hot-hand Luke

Kennard ended the competitive portion of the game with a scoring outburst to start the second quarter.

The second-year shooting guard scored the Pistons’ first 17 points of the second quarter in pushing the lead to 53-32.

Kennard scored 19 of the Pistons’ 29 points in second quarter to push the lead to 65-41 at halftime.

Detroit Free Press