November 23, 1988: Knicks utilize half-court trap and three pointers to shock the Detroit Pistons 133-111 in the Palace of Auburn Hills
The road to the championship for the Detroit Pistons, who went into the game 9-1, approached a bump in the road against Rick Pitino & the New York Knicks. The combination of aggressive half-court traps and 3-point shots stifled the Pistons, who came into the game limiting opponents to only 98.6 points per game, a mark 2nd in the league.
Patrick Ewing led the way with 37 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, & 4 blocks and made 12-15 from the free throw line. However, Johnny Newman & Trent Tucker played pivotal roles in the victory. Newman & Tucker scored a combined 44 points on 8-13 from three. The team overall shot 9-16 from three point distance.1
The game also showcased the combo point guard duo of Mark Jackson & Rod Strickland. Both point guards got playing time together with the injury of Gerald Wilkins. Jackson had a double double with 14 points and 14 assists. Strickland had 9 points and 5 assists in 15 minutes.
The Pitino system frustrated the Pistons the entire night. Pitino established the interior game with Ewing to draw fouls and open the floor for three point shots. The team hit 35 free throws compared to 11 for the Pistons. The aggressive trapping led to 22 Pistons turnovers and easy buckets (including threes) for the Knicks. Future Knick GM Isiah Thomas committed 7 turnovers and, after the game, admitted the half-court press was “murder.”