Las Vegas — The Pistons weren’t going to let this one get away.
After holding big leads in each of their first two Summer League games, they jumped out to another big lead against the New York Knicks. This time, they held on — barely.
Cade Cunningham led the way with 24 points, including 7-of-10 on 3-pointers, and helped the Pistons get their first win of Summer League, 91-87, over the Knicks on Friday night at Thomas & Mack Center.
Jamorko Pickett had 18 points, Saddiq Bey 15 points, 13 rebounds and four assists and Luka Garza 10 points and 12 rebounds for the Pistons (1-2), who play the second game of a back-to-back on Saturday against the Lakers.
The Pistons jetted to a 20-6 lead, with 11 points from Pickett, in the first seven minutes, for a 20-6 lead. The Knicks closed to within 33-31 near the end of the second quarter, but Cunningham hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to five.
The Pistons opened the third quarter with a 16-4 run, and the Pistons looked to be on their way to an easy win, but Obi Toppin (31 points and nine rebounds) scored 11 straight points for the Knicks (2-2), sparking a run.
When the Knicks got within nine at the 4:49 mark of the fourth quarter, Cunningham hit two straight 3-pointers and Bey followed with another for an 85-69 lead with 2:11 left.
The Knicks kept pressing and got within three in the final 30 seconds, but Saben Lee (15 points) hit four free throws to help put the game away.
Here are some observations from the Pistons’ win:
► Cunningham looked much smoother on the offensive end, primarily as a scorer. He was patient at the 3-point line and didn’t force shots. He turned things up in the fourth quarter, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers after the Knicks had trimmed the lead to single digits. Throughout the game, when the Pistons needed a basket or someone to just calm things down, Cunningham came through time after time. That could be his most impressive trait, even beyond the shooting.
► Hayes didn’t have a stellar offensive game, but the big takeaway was the pair of 3-pointers that he hit. He had his feet set and was in a good shooting rhythm when he took the two spot-up opportunities. He went 0-of-6 from beyond the arc in his first two games. The long-range shot continues to be a work in progress but seeing that he’s figuring out some of the issues is an improvement. Defensively he’s had the same intensity and was integral in creating some havoc for the Knicks backcourt.
► Garza had another strong showing, getting the start at center. He was solid on the boards and carved out space in the paint to score a couple of easy baskets. The Pistons had struggled at the center position in the first two games, but he had the best performance of any of their big men so far, with xx rebounds. Garza is making a strong case to get a roster spot, or at least the second two-way contract. Defensively, he’s still out of position at times, but with his size and strength, he’s able to overcome some of that deficiency.
► Jamorko Pickett had a game for himself, making an early statement with 13 points in the first quarter, jump-starting the Pistons’ early rally. Pickett had played sparingly in the first two games, but with Sekou Doumbouya missing the game because of a family commitment, he jumped into the starting lineup and made an impact. Pickett had three 3-pointers in the opening period and started the game with an alley-oop from Bey. He showed throughout the game that he can be an asset offensively, and he likely earned himself another start in Saturday’s game against the Lakers.
► The Pistons had 18 turnovers, and in some instances where Hayes or Cunningham was out of the game, they had trouble even getting the ball past halfcourt. Toward the end of the game, they struggled to finish the game simply by handling the ball and waiting for the fouls to come. The Knicks pressured them, but with that many turnovers, they almost lost a game in the final minutes that they had clearly in hand. They had 20 turnovers in the opener, which led to the loss to the Thunder.