LAS VEGAS — The Detroit Pistons tipped off their Summer League slate against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, and the first quarter checked many of the boxes onlookers wanted to see from No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham and the rest of the their young core.
But they were unable to carry that momentum through the rest of the game.
The Thunder defeated the Pistons at the Thomas & Mack Center, 76-72. Saddiq Bey led the team with 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Cunningham scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds in his summer league debut.
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Tyler Cook added 11 points and five rebounds. Killian Hayes played well with six points, nine rebounds and five assists, and Sekou Doumbouya had six points and five blocks.
Detroit led, 26-14, after the first quarter, but was outscored 28-12 in the second quarter and never recovered. The Pistons missed Isaiah Stewart, who was on the bench but likely won’t participate in summer session as he recovers from an ankle injury.
Cunningham and Hayes started together alongside Bey, Doumbouya and Cook. The point guard duo played all of their minutes together during the first half, before being staggered during much of the second half.
Cade Cunningham makes his (summer) debut
When the arena announcer went to the introductions for Detroit’s starting five, Cunningham got the loudest cheers. It’s understandable, considering he was the No. 1 pick in last month’s draft. All eyes were on him, and while he didn’t have a great night shooting the ball, he showed enough to demonstrate why he’s considered a safe prospect.
Cunningham’s first two shots of the night helped surge an early 12-0 Pistons run. His first bucket was a corner 3-pointer, and he followed that with a pull-up 3-pointer about 80 seconds later to give Detroit a 12-4 lead. He was active defensively and looked comfortable playing off of the ball alongside Hayes during the first half.
He wasn’t able to solve Detroit’s offensive woes by himself. He shot just 5-for-17 overall and went 0 of 5 from the 3-point line after making his first two attempts. He also turned the ball over five times. Hayes handled more of the playmaking responsibilities when they shared the floor together, but it appeared to be more of a coaching decision than anything indicative of Cunningham’s ability.
Killian Hayes showcases all-around game
Hayes’ Summer League debut might’ve been the next-most anticipated by fans. He was arguably Detroit’s best player, impacting the game as a defender, passer and rebounder.
He led the Pistons in assists (five) and grabbed the second-most rebounds (nine). Hayes showed that he can be a disruptive defender last season, and that carried over on Sunday. He hounded opposing ball-handlers and created transition opportunities by forcing turnovers. Hayes is a big point guard at 6 foot 5, and he’s at his best when he’s using his size to get to the rim and making life miserable for his opponents on defense.
His offense is still a work-in-progress, as his two 3-point attempts missed the mark. But he also showed nice touch on a pair of midrange floaters, his go-to shot for much of last season.
Saddiq Bey embraces lead scoring role
Midway through the second quarter, Bey let the shot clock wind down as he poked the defense before stepping into a turnaround, fadeaway midrange jumper. It wasn’t a shot that was in his bag last season, but he drained it with relative ease.
It’s too early to say if Bey’s improved self-creation will be a fixture of his game next season, but he was comfortable doing it on Sunday. He drained multiple step-back 3-pointers and was on a mission to score, passing up a few opportunities to move the ball to get his own shot. It mostly worked out, as he bailed out multiple possessions that would’ve stalled out otherwise.
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