OH, THOSE ACHING HEADS: KNICKS STILLAREN’T SURE WHAT HIT THEM AT PALACE

Good morning, New York, and how are we feeling toda —

Ooh, sorry. Are we talking too loud? Bad headache, huh? Here. Try some of these aspirin. It was a nasty fall you took last night. All the way from the clouds to the pits. Lie back, and we’ll try to explain what happened.

What’s that? Who were those men at the end of the game? Well, their names are William Bedford, Scott Hastings, David Greenwood and Gerald Henderson. Yes. They are Pistons. Well, yes, they were pretty good, I suppose. They don’t normally play that much. Actually, I can’t remember the last time they were all out on the floor at the same time. But that’s what happens when you fall behind by 40 poin —

. . . New York?

Oops. Lost you for a minute there. Maybe some warm milk would be good. I’ll call downstairs.

Ice pack?

There you go. Now then, listen up, New York. I might as well be frank. I don’t know how you did it to the Boston Celtics — and, from the looks of it, neither do they — but you should know this: You can’t beat the Pistons with one weapon. I don’t care how big that weapon is, or how many knee pads it puts on. No good. It’s like trying to stop a cattle herd with one rope.

But hey, I can see by your eyes, you already know that. They’re all red and swollen. And your face and hair, all disheveled like that? You look like Kenny Walker. But then, it was rather a rude awakening at the Palace Tuesday, wasn’t it? Don’t feel bad. Happens to a lot of teams. Around here they call it defense. They call it a point guard. They call it Detroit basketball, and apparently, even sending it on a one- week vacation doesn’t take away its sharpness.

Whoa. Room is spinning, isn’t it?

Just lie back for a minute.

Better? Good. The final score? Um. Well. I’m not sure that in your condition you really want to hear the final —

OK. OK. It was 112-77.

You lost by 35.

New York? . . . New York? . . .

Ah, welcome back. You just passed out again. I know how it is. Here you were, flying so high after that Boston series, feeling like you could do anything, and the Pistons had been off for so long, so it was such a perfect opportunity and all that.

But like your coach, Stu Jackson, said, “That wasn’t our real team out there.”

You only have the headache.

You see, New York, the problem is this: Around here, the front line is not as old or as slow as the Boston Celtics, and the guards actually have names you can remember. Like Isiah Thomas, who played one of his more beautiful playoff games, coming out focused and directing the offense — with his shooting and his passing — so deftly, so easily, that he was able to sit down in the third quarter and stop sweating for the night. You remember that terrific bounce pass to Joe Dumars on the fast break that opened an 18-point lead? Or those rainbow jumpers from the top of the key that kissed the net for three poin —

Sorry. Got carried away.

And then there is that defense. It was something wasn’t it? Like the time Bill Laimbeer slapped the ball out of Patrick Ewing’s hands as he rose for a lay-up, leaving the big guy hanging there, like a bank robber without a gun. Heh-heh. That was really kind of —

Forgive me.

Smelling salts?

There you go. Much better. Patrick? Yes. I suppose you want to know about Patrick. Did he score? Of course. Don’t be silly. He had 19. No, not in the first quarter. In the whole game.

Rebounds?

Well. He had — and I think you should lie back before you hear this — he had . . . four rebounds.

Hello? . . .

NURSE!

Ah, good morning again. Listen. Why don’t we just rip up this final stat sheet, because I think it’s doing a lot of harm. Especially the part about the free throws. I can’t believe this. Only 10 of 22. That’s kind of like a high school game, wouldn’t you —

Never mind. We’ll just rip this sheet up.

Listen. It may help to know that none of the Pistons was gloating. They just said you had a bad night. I guess that’s what you call 35.6 shooting percentage. A bad night. Chuck Daly said the Pistons were so tired of waiting for this game that when it started “it felt like we were sprung from a cage.”

And Mark Aguirre said that “We were beating each other up so much in practice, we just wanted to take it out on somebody else.”

Rough? Yes. They are kind of rough. That’s the way they play basketball around here.

Here. Have some orange juice. You’re starting to look better.

Listen, New York. You have lots to feel good about. Remember that guy, Scott Hastings? He usually sits on the end of the bench and talks to the fans. But last night, you gave him a chance to play. He even scored a basket. Afterwards, he said, “That was probably my first and last five minutes of the playoffs.”

He was really excited.

Now don’t you feel good about that?

Yes. You’re looking better, already. Sitting up and everything. By this afternoon you’ll be walking around, and maybe even shooting baskets, although I would stay away from the free throw line for at least 24 hours.

And before you know it, you will have forgotten all about this nasty evening, and the big bad Pistons and their tenacious defense and their spread-it-around offense and that time John Salley slam-dunked on Patrick Ewing and drew a foul and got Patrick all upset. It will all pass. And I’m sure you’ll be fine.

Just one more thing.

Tomorrow night?

You have to play them again.

New York? . . . New York? . . .

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