Sunday, March 12, 2017

New York Knicks 92 at Detroit Pistons 112 - March 11, 2017

The Detroit Pistons will be joining the Red Wings next season at Little Caesars Arena, making this the last season that one can see both the Palace of Auburn Hills and Joe Louis Arena as Big 4 venues. I've been to both a couple of times, but the last time I saw the Pistons at home was way back in 2003 for a playoff game against Orlando. This was Game 5 in the first round with eighth seed Orlando up 3-1, when Tracy McGrady said he was looking forward to the second round. Oops! The Pistons won in 7, including a 98-67 win in that game.

Anyway, I wanted to visit the Palace once more before it shuts its doors to the NBA, and found a weekend where the Red Wings were also at home. Coincidentally, both teams were hosting New York teams, making it an all-Manhattan weekend in the Motor City!

Auburn Hills is just over 30 miles north of Detroit, so I stayed in the area that day to avoid the drive back after the game. My friend Mike, a Michigan native who lives nearby, met me at a local bar beforehand. We planned to drive, but Mike found a place called Hoops that offers $4 shuttle rides, thus saving the hassle and cost of parking. We stopped there for another drink before catching the first shuttle that dropped us off at the East Terrace just after 4, an hour before the rather rare 5 p.m. start.

I had bought tickets through the exchange program on TicketMaster which allows you to enter by having the ticket’s bar code on your phone scanned. Before we did that, I stopped at the box office inside the East Entrance to see if they could print us hard tickets as a souvenir. The staff were very amenable and although it took them a couple of minutes, they were able to print the tickets using different stock than the usual boring tickets with no images, something I was quite happy about. A nice souvenir indeed as you can see below.

Our seats were in Row A, but this is only the first row of the fixed seating area, and floor seats are directly in front. There isn’t enough of a difference between the two levels, so the view was partially blocked by people in front. At halftime, we moved a row back to see more clearly.

The Palace was opened in 1988 and the Pistons won their first championship that season. Banners that were hanging almost directly above us celebrate that plus their other two titles, and these will obviously be moved to the new venue.

I won’t describe the arena in detail here since it won't be used for major sports going forward; if you want to know more check out its Wikipedia entry.

As stated in that article, the Palace is considered the first "modern" NBA arena as it included luxury suites and club seats, but even then it used only a single concourse, so the upper bowl is still quite close to the floor. All new venues have an upper and lower concourse, usually separated by one or two suite levels, so the upper bowl is often far away from the action. The photo below was taken from about the middle of the upper and shows that the view is not that bad. The answer to the trivia question (shown on the very impressive scoreboard) is Jon Leuer.

A few other pictures of the arena:

The concourse was more than wide enough, as you would expect in a venue that was built without any constraints from existing streets or buildings.

Past stars are displayed in photos above concourse entrances and with banners. Note the William signature below; this is for Bill Davidson, who owned the Pistons and funded the Palace entirely with private funds. He passed away in 2009 and the team and arena were sold to Tom Gores in 2011.

View from the good seats...

...and the top row of the end zone.

The Palace is really an impressive arena considering its age. The only problem is its location, at least for those who actually live in Detroit, who must be happy to save 70 miles of driving for every game starting next year. For those hoops fans that live nearby, their gas bill is going to go up considerably. As for me, I'm glad I made one final trip to see it. Can't say the same for the Knicks though.

The Game

A somewhat meaningful encounter with the Pistons battling for that all-important 7th spot in the East at 32-33, while the Knicks continue to destroy Phil Jackson's reputation, coming in at 26-39.

The teams were tied at 9 when Detroit went on a quick 12-0 run behind 7 points from Tobias Harris, and they led by 12 at the end of the first, even after the Knicks Chasson Randle hit a buzzer beater from half-court. The second quarter was a wash as the Pistons took at 66-53 lead into the break.

The Knicks started shooting well in the third and when Randle hit a trey with just under 2 minutes left, they pulled within 3 at 81-78 but the Pistons finished the frame on an 8-3 spurt and continued the trend in the final period with a 9-4 advantage that removed all doubt and they coasted to a 112-92 win, with the Knicks putting up a woeful 11 points in the fourth. The Pistons outshot the Knicks (48-44%) but New York's 3-point percentage was better (43-33%). The difference in the game was turnovers, as the Knicks committed 18 compared to just 7 for the Pistons, giving them an extra 12 attempts from the field. In the end, it was not a bad game as there were only 33 fouls called, so it moved quickly.


The Palace will not be razed as it hosts many other events throughout the year, catering to the 2 million or so people who populate Oakland and Macomb counties. So if you like to visit former sports arenas, you can do a doubleheader with the Pontiac Silverdome which is just 4 miles south. Its roof collapsed in 2013 and lies in ruins now, but that didn't stop some people from touring it recently.



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