No Cunningham, no Hayes, no problem: Pistons beat Lakers in Summer League, 103-86

Detroit News

Las Vegas — Without two of the biggest attractions, there didn’t seem to be much to watch for the Pistons.

Cade Cunningham (calf soreness) and Killian Hayes (concussion protocol) were ruled out just before Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. The rest of the Pistons still had something to play for.

After two tough losses to start Summer League, the Pistons evened their record after a 103-86 victory over the Lakers on Saturday night at Thomas & Mack Center, their second win in as many nights.

Saben Lee had 22 points and five assists, Luka Garza 20 points and 13 rebounds and Spencer Littleson 17 points and six rebounds for the Pistons (2-2). The Pistons play their last Summer League game on Monday against the Orlando Magic.

Lee led the charge as the primary facilitator, and he carried the Pistons for some stretches with his offense, which was a high point after a slow start in Summer League.

“I definitely think the confidence stems from his work. When you put the time that he puts into his shooting and his overall game, you start to feel a little more confident,” Pistons Summer League coach J.D. DuBois said.

“Obviously, when you get a couple of shots to go in and see some results go your way, that confidence takes another step. It’s a long process, and he’s a player that’s willing to put the time man, so I’m excited to watch where he is and where he’s going to end up.”

As they’ve done in each of their four Summer League games, the Pistons jumped to an early lead, 16-8, behind six points from Lee and five points from Bey. The Pistons had a 16-2 run after a Lee drive and a cut through the lane by Deividas Sirvydis. They finished the quarter with another 9-2 surge and led, 29-17, heading into the second quarter.

The Lakers (2-2) opened the second period with a 9-0 run before Littleson hit a 3-pointer. The Lakers moved ahead after a jumper by Chaundee Brown (Michigan), who finished with 10 points.

The Pistons extended the lead in the third quarter behind Lee, who scored nine straight points for them. Another 3-pointer from Littleson helped push the lead to 64-52, and the Pistons were able to hold a double-digit margin through most of the fourth quarter.

Here are some observations from the Pistons’ win:

► Garzilla: Garza is making an impression with his work ethic and his ability to make his minutes count on the court. He started for the second straight game and was an efficient 6-of-12 from the field and added three 3-pointers. He’s showing a lot of variety in his playing time, and with his 3-point shooting and presence inside, he’s a difference-maker. As the Pistons sort out the roster, it’ll be interesting to see where Garza lands.

► Lee’s time: With the Pistons’ two primary ballhandlers out of the game, Lee took on the challenge of running the team, and did a nice job of settling down and playing under control. He had struggled offensively in the first three games, but with the keys in his hands, he had his best game of Summer League. Lee finished 8-of-16 from the field and 2-of-4 from 3-point range.

“It’s awesome and I’ve put in a lot of work and hours and my shooting,” Lee said. “That’s an aspect of my game that I definitely want to improve on.”

► The Littleson things: Through the first couple of games, Littleson had struggled to find his stroke from beyond the arc, but he made up for lost time on Saturday, hitting 5 of 10. Littleson, who grew up in Rochester Hills and played at Toledo. The Pistons’ offense flowed a bit differently with a renewed focus. DuBois said the offense was more dependent on good passing and getting people in the right spots, and Littleson was one of the big beneficiaries.

► More Morko: Jamorko Pickett, who had a breakout game with 18 points on Friday, continued his hot shooting, with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including three more 3-pointers. He got a second straight start and played a team-high 32 minutes. Pickett was fluid in the offense and when he got a sliver of open space for a shot, he didn’t hesitate to put it up. There’s likely not a roster spot for him on the Pistons’ roster, but he’s going to find a longer look somewhere with what he’s shown this week.

Pistons vs. Magic

Tipoff: 8 Monday, Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas

TV/radio: ESPN2

Outlook: The Magic (1-2) will be without top pick Jalen Suggs, who has a hand injury and only played the first three games. Cade Cunningham (calf soreness) and Killian Hayes (concussion protocol) are not likely to play for the Pistons (2-2).

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