The Detroit Pistons used a dominating second-half performance to pull away from Team Croatia in the opening game of the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League on July 5th. Detroit earned a 96-80 victory over Croatia. Khyri Thomas led five Pistons in double figures with a game-high 26 points.
ICYMI, Khyri Thomas went OFF and we won our first Summer League game.
— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) July 6, 2019
The Pistons (1-0) used their speed and quickness to take an 11-3 lead midway through the opening quarter. But Croatia finally settled in and used their advantage of playing together for a while to put together a run of their own. The Croatians used a 12-2 spurt over three minutes to take a 15-13 lead. However, Thomas closed out the quarter by scoring five straight points to finish with eight for the period to give the Pistons a 20-19 edge.
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk took over after replacing Thomas to start the second quarter. Mykhailiuk scored eight of the Pistons’ first 11 points as the team increased their lead to 31-23. Then Croatia battled back once again. The Croatian’s outscored the Pistons 23-11 the rest of the quarter to take a 46-42 halftime lead.
Detroit kept things close for most of the third quarter. The Pistons finally pulled away late in the frame into the early fourth behind excellent three-point shooting. Thomas, Mykhailiuk and Todd Withers combined to make seven triples over 12 minutes as the Pistons extended their lead from one to 14.
Overall, the Pistons outscored the Croatians 53-34 over the final 20 minutes. The key for the Pistons was their offensive rebounding, particularly in the first half, as well as their three-point shooting. Detroit outrebounded Croatia 13-6 on the offensive end. They also made eight more shots from beyond the arc (16-8).
Thomas came into the league as a “reliable shooter and competitive defender” last year and showed both to be valid against Croatia. The 23-year-old made 9 of 20 shots from the field and 7 of 14 from beyond the arc. He also helped on the boards, hauling in six caroms, and was active on the defensive end due to his length and tenacity. Also, the Creighton product showed nice body control and the ability to handle the ball. Although he did occasionally overdribble, which led to him turning the ball over four times.
Thomas did not see much playing time this past season with the Pistons, appearing in 23 contests. The Pistons also went out and signed Derrick Rose and Tim Frazier as free agents. However, if the Creighton product can knock down shots as he showed in game one of the summer league, the 2018 second-round selection could factor into the mix in Dwane Casey‘s three-guard lineup.
While Thomas was the catalyst to the Pistons win, he was not the only player that stood out. Bruce Brown and Mykhailiuk were terrific as well.
Brown saw plenty of playing time in a whirl-wind rookie campaign. But the Pistons want to see if the 6-foot-5 guard can handle the point, where he spent all 29 minutes against Croatia. He passed the test for this game.
Brown was able to get into the lane at will and demonstrated a lead guard mentality of running an offense. He did an excellent job distributing the ball, finishing with seven assists and only two turnovers and showed his on-ball defensive prowess by hounding Croatia’s point guards. On the other hand, shooting and playing in traffic are still issues for Brown. The 22-year scored 12 points, on 4-for-10 shooting (1-4 on three-pointers), and also grabbed five rebounds.
Mykhailiuk, perhaps the team’s best pure shooter, showed that he is capable of more. The 6-foot-8 small forward definitely made shots but he also showed off some playmaking ability. His ballhandling and penetration skills were on display yesterday. The University of Kansas product finished with 17 points, on 5 of 10 shooting including 2 of 6 from long distance, to go along with five dimes, although he did have six turnovers.
“He has an ability to make plays off the dribble and make shots,” Pistons’ Summer League coach Sean Sweeney said. “When the ball is in his hands, he can drive it, he can play some pick and roll, and when he gets a good look, he can knock it down.”
Detroit got some unexpected contributions from Matt Costello, and Withers. Costello compiled 11 points and eight rebounds (five offensive) as well as two assists. He showed the ability to run the floor, finish at the rim, and be effective in pick-n-rolls. More importantly, the hard-nosed 25-year-old was a physical presence on the defensive end. The Pistons were a plus-28 when Costello was on the floor.
The Michigan State University product has spent most of his three-year pro career in the G-League or overseas. He was in the Italian Serie A-League in 2018-19. However, the 6-foot-9 bruiser has a shot at making the team as the club does not currently have very many big men.
Withers, who was a member of the G-League’s Grand Rapids Drive last year, compiled 16 points in 21 minutes off the bench. The 6-foot-8 guard was 6-for-9 from the field including 4-for-7 on 3-point attempts. He added four rebounds. It was a nice game, but the Queens University (N.C.) product will likely be back in the G-League this season.
Detroit’s 2019 first-round selection Sekou Doumbouya and second-round pick Jordan Bone did not play versus Croatia. Doumbouya experienced tightness in his right hamstring and is listed as day-to-day. Bone is not on the team’s Summer League roster as the Pistons’ trade with the Philadelphia 76ers has yet to be completed. Bone, along with Louis King, is expected to grab the team’s two-way contracts.
Speaking of King, he had an underwhelming debut. The former University of Oregon wing went scoreless as he missed both of his shot attempts. King did haul in two rebounds in 10 minutes of action.
Deividas Sirvydis did make his debut entering the contest last in the game. He knocked down his lone shot — a three-pointer- and grabbed a defensive rebound in four minutes of action. Sirvydis came over the Pistons on a draft-day trade with the Dallas Mavericks.
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