LAS VEGAS — It would be an understatement to say the Detroit Pistons struggled to shoot the ball against the Rockets on Tuesday. But their outside shooting was their biggest strength on Friday against the New York Knicks, and it gave them enough of a cushion to avoid a late collapse and pick up their first win in NBA Summer League.
The Pistons defeated the Knicks at Thomas & Mack Center, 93-87, behind a 24-point, seven-rebound performance from Cade Cunningham. The first pick of the 2021 draft made seven of his 10 3-point attempts, and had his highest-scoring night of summer league thus far. Cunningham also had three assists.
Jamorko Pickett had a breakout game with 18 points on 7-for-10 overall shooting and 4-for-4 from the 3-point line. Saddiq Bey (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Luka Garza (10 points, 12 rebounds) both tallied double-doubles, and Killian Hayes added seven points, six assists and five rebounds.
Detroit shot 18-for-36 from outside after hitting just seven of their 35 attempts on Tuesday. The Pistons led by as many as many as 21, but the Knicks forced 18 turnovers with an aggressive, pressing defense and scored 25 points off of Detroit’s miscues. New York cut the deficit to 87-64 with 29.2 seconds left, but Saben Lee (15 points) iced the game with six free throws down the stretch.
Cunningham’s best performance yet
At Oklahoma State, Cunningham was one of the most effective shooters in the country. He could consistently make both off the dribble and off the catch, and it was one of the reasons why most draft pundits considered him to be the best and safest prospect in the draft.
His ability to hit all types of 3s was on full display Friday.
Cunningham’s last two 3-pointers of the game — a pull-up with 4:31 to play, and a catch-and-shoot with 2:40 left — iced the game for the Pistons, who led by as many as 20 but couldn’t quite shake off a physical Knicks team for most of the night.
Hayes snaps shooting slump
Hayes’ first bucket of the night was a moment fans had awaited all week. And it was certainly one he needed after a cold start to summer league.
Midway through the first quarter, Hayes crossed over his defender and completely spun them around before hitting a stepback 3-pointer, with both feet set. It was his first 3 of the week after going 0-for-6 during the previous two games.
John Beilein has been working with Hayes on his outside shooting this offseason. While Hayes has occasionally displayed the footwork necessary to create his own looks from outside, he’s been best when he sets his feet before shooting, rather than launching an off-balance shot. His second make from outside was an open catch-and-shoot attempt, also with both feet set.
Fast start for Pickett helps build early lead
With Sekou Doumbouya out for the rest of the summer league, the Pistons made two changes in the starting frontcourt. Garza, the second-round pick who has played well in Vegas, took one of the spots. Pickett, who went undrafted out of Georgetown before signing onto Detroit’s summer league roster, took the other.
Pickett played 17 minutes in the first two games combined and shot 1-for-3 in both games. During the first quarter on Friday, he was Detroit’s best player, scoring the team’s first two buckets of the game, an alley-oop dunk and catch-and-shoot 3-pointer, and finished the period with 13 points on a perfect 5-for-5 overall shooting, and 3-for-3 from behind the arc.
A career 36.5% outside shooter during his four years of college, Pickett gave the Pistons a big lift against the Knicks. Detroit struggled to shoot the ball on Tuesday, but they were a completely different team from behind the arc against the Knicks. Pickett helped them get rolling early, and had his best game so far. The Pistons opened the game with a 19-4 run, with Pickett scoring 11 points and knocking down three 3-pointers in that span.
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