AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Carmelo Anthony was recovering from an injury for New York, and Detroit's top two big men were also out.
The Knicks were ready to be aggressive, but the initial result was ugly -- 11 turnovers in the first quarter.
"Sometimes you can try to over-attack," guard Raymond Felton said. "Sometimes you've got to take what the defense gives you no matter who's playing."
The Knicks settled down after that sloppy start, and although they relied more than expected on their outside shooting, they eventually pulled away in the fourth quarter for an 87-77 victory Wednesday night.
Felton scored 26 points, and New York went on a 16-0 run in the fourth to put away the game.
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Anthony sat out after injuring his right knee Monday. The Pistons were without big man Greg Monroe, who has a sore left ankle, and Detroit coach Lawrence Frank missed the game because of a personal matter.
"I told our guys after the game that I have nothing negative to say," said Detroit assistant Brian Hill, who filled in for Frank. "I thought we played some difficult lineups out there tonight. I thought they gave us every ounce of energy that they could possibly give us."
The Knicks overcame their early turnovers and led 44-38 at the half. Brandon Knight scored 17 points for the Pistons and led a third-quarter rally, but Detroit managed only 12 points in the fourth.
The Knicks have won five of six heading into Thursday's home game against Oklahoma City.
"Melo is a big piece of our ballclub and we have had games this year where he missed and we have been successful," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "That is the sign of a true team, a team that is willing to step up and make plays and win regardless of who is in uniform."
New York ended up taking 35 shots from 3-point range against the undermanned Pistons, making 13.
Smith scored 20 points.
Detroit's Jose Calderon had 10 points and 16 assists.
Hill joked before the game that he might need a blindfold and a cigarette because of the difficult task ahead. The Pistons trailed by 15 in the second quarter before a mild rally before halftime.
"It just happens throughout the season, when guys go out with injuries," Knight said. "It made it a little bit tougher as far as trying to find a flow for our team, but I think we did a good job just playing the game and figuring it out."
Detroit controlled the start of the third as well. Knight scored 11 of his team's 13 points in one stretch and gave the Pistons a 65-55 lead when he made a 3-pointer with 2:44 left, but Detroit didn't score for the rest of the quarter.
Felton scored the last seven points of the period to tie it at 65.
The Knicks also scored the first six points of the fourth, but Detroit answered with eight in a row and took a 73-71 lead on two free throws by Rodney Stuckey.
"The game of basketball is about runs," Felton said. "Those guys put up a good fight. They started hitting some shots, making plays, getting defensive stops, but we reversed it at the end of the third in the last five or six minutes and then in the fourth."
- The Knicks finished with 21 turnovers to Detroit's 20.
- Detroit's Jason Maxiell scored 14 points, including three early dunks.
- In the final minute, Knight drove and missed a dunk, and the ball bounced all the way back to the other basket, where the Pistons retrieved it. Kidd then made a steal, and New York ran out the clock.