The Knicks led by only one after three quarters but then limited Detroit to 13 points in the final 12 minutes, just missing their best defensive performance of the season.
Elfrid Payton had 16 points, six assists and five rebounds for the Knicks, who finished 3-2 on their homestand by bouncing back from a 126-103 loss to Oklahoma City on Friday.
»I think they really smacked us. They threw the first hit and our team didn’t respond,» forward Bobby Portis said of that defeat.
»And we just came yesterday with a positive mindset. Everybody came in just ready to roll and I’m happy that it carried over tonight.»
Mitchell Robinson had 14 points, 11 rebounds and a series of highlight-worthy athletic plays.
Christian Wood had 22 points and eight rebounds for the Pistons, who have lost four straight and 11 of their last 12 games. Bruce Brown scored 16.
The Knicks opened the fourth quarter with a 10-3 spurt that increased a 72-71 edge to 82-74, and from there they kept pounding it inside to Randle to expand their lead while the Pistons got nothing going offensively.
He was like a running back wearing down a tired team, going 5 of 6 at the line and scoring eight points in the period.
»I felt like I was getting hit like a running back,» Randle said. »We got the win nonetheless.»
Detroit shot 4 for 19 (21%) in the fourth.
Wood’s free throws with 36 seconds to play kept the Knicks from matching their best defensive effort, when they held Brooklyn to 82 points on Dec. 26.
»It was a one-point game going into the fourth quarter and we just couldn’t get anything going,» Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. »The ball just stuck and everybody that caught it, held it, and you’re not going to produce very many points doing that.»
Detroit led 6-0 but New York scored the final 11 points of the first quarter, highlighted by Robinson’s dunk on Payton’s lob pass from midcourt, to take a 27-22 lead.
The Knicks led 49-47 at halftime.
The Pistons’ top players have all either been hurt, traded or bought out by now, and there just isn’t much firepower left on a team that’s turned to youth.
And on this night, their second of a back-to-back, there wasn’t much energy, either. Detroit finished at 36% shooting from the field.
»We started off a little sluggish for some reason,» Wood said. »I don’t know if it was because of the back-to-back, but our pace wasn’t where we needed it to be and I feel guys were just a little sluggish today.»
Pistons: John Henson limped off midway through the fourth quarter after appearing to roll his left ankle on a spinning dribble move. … Detroit’s 13 points were its fewest in a fourth quarter this season.
Knicks: RJ Barrett scored 12 points. … Dennis Smith Jr. remained out while in concussion protocol, though interim coach Mike Miller said the guard was feeling better.
The Knicks have won two straight against the Pistons after Detroit had won the previous eight matchups. New York had dropped the last four meetings at Madison Square Garden.
Wood extended his career-best streak of 20-point games to four. He scored a career-high 30 on Saturday in a loss to Utah.
Pistons: Visit Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Knicks: Visit Washington on Tuesday to open a three-game road trip.