AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Isiah Thomas flashed the ear-to-ear grin that used to be a familiar sight.
The New York Knicks then kept their embattled coach in a good mood during the game.
Wilson Chandler scored all of his 19 points in the first half, helping the Knicks build a huge lead, and New York held off a late charge from the Detroit Pistons in a 98-94 win Tuesday night.
The game didn't mean much for either team. With a week left in the regular season, the lottery-bound Knicks have as many wins (22) as the Eastern Conference's second-seeded team has losses.
The night was meaningful, however, for Thomas because he was part of a pregame ceremony that honored the Pistons' all-time team.
"This was a great night for the Pistons franchise and for all of us," Thomas said.
The Hall of Fame point guard received one of the loudest ovations in the only NBA arena where he's beloved.
"It was Zeke's night, I guess," said Detroit point guard Chauncey Billups, who was also among the 30 players recognized during a 40-minute celebration.
Many expect Thomas to be fired after the season by Donnie Walsh, who the Knicks hired last week to replace Thomas as their president of basketball operations.
"You always feel for coaches when they're struggling," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "I don't know if he's dead man walking. He's going to be involved."
Thomas declined to say if he had a meeting scheduled with Walsh on Wednesday as some media outlets have reported.
For a few hours, Thomas had an enjoyable diversion. He smiled when The Palace crowd roared after his name was announced before the game along with other members of the Bad Boys, current players and older greats like Dave Bing.
Before the game Thomas insisted the festivities only help him do his current job.
"It gives me more confidence in the beliefs we have and in what we're trying to do in New York," he said. "It has recharged my battery and makes me want to push harder and further."
Then, Thomas' team kept him happy.
"I'm very proud of the guys in that locker room because we've had a very difficult year, and they haven't given up," Thomas said. "We've faced some extreme difficulties, but they are going out there every night and playing hard."
Chandler scored nine points in the first quarter as New York built a double-digit cushion and led 28-16 heading into the second.
Against an uninspired team, the Knicks led 57-34 at halftime and 79-60 after three quarters.
Detroit's reserves put together a comeback, going on an 11-0 run to pull within two points in the final minute before Mardy Collins' jumper sealed the win with seven seconds left.
"The group that went in the fourth quarter gave us a chance after we were down 25," Saunders said.
Billups and Tayshaun Prince each scored 11 points for the Pistons, who had won five straight.
Jamal Crawford scored 16 for New York, which has won two straight after losing 10 of 11 games.
"We cherish every win at this point. They've been hard to come by," Chandler said. "We've put back-to-back wins together, so we want to see if we can end the season strong."
Chandler said the pregame ceremony, which the Knicks watched, inspired the players.
"It brought chills to me, seeing those Bad Boys teams, and to see the legacy they have here," said Chandler, a former Benton Harbor High School star. "That motivated us to get a win for Isiah. I was ready to go as soon as the ball went up."
|New York (22-56) «||28||29||22||19||98|
|NY:W. Chandler 19 Pts
NY:W. Chandler 9 Reb
NY:J. Crawford 3 Ast
|DET:A. Johnson 14 Pts
DET:J. Maxiell 10 Reb
DET:C. Billups 3 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|W. Chandler, SF||34||8-9||1-1||9||1||3||19|
|J. Crawford, SG||24||7-14||0-0||1||3||0||16|
|Q. Richardson, SF||24||3-4||0-0||6||2||1||6|
|Z. Randolph, PF||24||3-9||5-6||5||1||2||11|
|J. Jeffries, PF||24||3-4||2-2||6||3||2||8|
|F. Jones, SG||24||4-9||0-0||2||3||2||9|
|R. Balkman, PF||24||2-5||0-2||8||2||4||4|
|M. Collins, PG||23||2-6||0-0||3||2||1||4|
|N. Robinson, PG||22||5-9||0-0||0||1||3||11|
|R. Morris, C||12||1-3||2-2||3||0||3||4|
|M. Rose, PF||6||3-4||0-0||2||0||0||6|
|S. Marbury, PG||Did Not Play|
|J. James, PF||Did Not Play|
|E. Curry, C||Did Not Play|
|D. Lee, PF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|C. Billups, PG||27||3-14||4-4||1||3||0||11|
|T. Prince, SF||27||4-12||3-4||7||1||0||11|
|R. Wallace, PF||23||3-11||0-0||7||2||2||6|
|A. McDyess, PF||21||0-5||0-0||7||2||1||0|
|A. Afflalo, SG||20||4-8||1-2||1||0||1||10|
|A. Johnson, SF||25||5-6||4-4||9||1||5||14|
|R. Stuckey, SG||25||4-14||4-5||4||3||1||12|
|J. Dixon, SG||24||5-13||0-2||3||2||1||11|
|J. Maxiell, PF||23||4-6||2-5||10||0||1||10|
|J. Hayes, SF||16||2-6||0-0||0||1||0||5|
|W. Herrmann, SF||10||2-6||0-0||2||0||0||4|
|L. Hunter, SG||Did Not Play|
|T. Ratliff, C||Did Not Play|
|R. Hamilton, SG||Did Not Play|
|C. Samb, C||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|