Detroit Pistons earn gritty, comeback 94-90 win over Toronto Raptors in Summer League

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons showed true grit Wednesday night against the Toronto Raptors, overcoming a 17-point deficit to take a 94-90 win and move to 2-1 in NBA Summer League play.

Without Jalen Duran and Jaden Ivey, the two rookies, Ausar Thompson and Marcus Sasser stepped up as leaders on the stat sheet. Thompson, the No. 5 pick in last month’s draft, had 17 points, nine rebounds, three assists and four steals while Sasser, the No. 25 pick, had 15 points and seven assists.

Jared Rhoden also stepped up thanks to a hot start, leading the Pistons with 18 points to go with eight rebounds.

The Pistons had their hands full early against first-round pick and Kansas standout Gradey Dick, former Rutgers star Ron Harper Jr. and Kansas State’s Markquis Nowell, who became a breakout star during the 2023 NCAA tournament.

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The two teams played a physical game with each one committing a technical and flagrant foul. Aggressive defense around the perimeter led to a few chippy moments, but the Pistons outscored the Raptors, 27-17, in the final 10-minute period, and 12-3 in the final 2:34.

Thompson makes presence known (again)

Thompson continues to prove that the Pistons made the right choice taking him with the fifth pick in the NBA draft. Although outside shooting was a concern before the draft, Thompson has excelled at just about every category in his first three games in Vegas.

More: Ausar Thompson makes strong impression with Detroit Pistons: ‘He’s a special talent’

General manager Troy Weaver has emphasized the importance of defense and Thompson fits right into that model. He plays aggressive, but smart, giving him the ability to steal the ball away from an opposing player before they can even notice. When Thompson does manage to swipe the ball, he immediately finds a teammate in transition, acting as a catalyst in a scoring play.

Those abilities were on full display against Toronto, especially during two breakaways — one that likely get Thompson featured on “SportsCenter” and its top 10 plays of the day. Thompson stole the ball from Dick and pushed it up the floor before passing to Sasser, who tossed it up for a reverse dunk from Thompson.

His defensive toughness led to offensive success once again when he secured a defensive rebound and threw a perfectly timed pass to Tosan Evbuomwan on the other end of the court for an easy two points. He showed that toughness on the offensive end at the end of the first half as well by outworking everyone under the bucket and getting his own rebound twice before laying it in.

Rhoden finds early stride

After scoring just two points against the Rockets Sunday, Rhoden came out hot against the Raptors. Rhoden, who played 14 games with the Pistons last season, scored the first nine points of the game.

He hit a free throw after being fouled on a layup to complete the three-point play before knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers. Rhoden was guarded by Dick in an early man-to-man defensive setup but had no issues shaking him off to find the bucket.

Rhoden cooled off in the second and third quarters but nailed a dunk to cut the Pistons’ deficit to three points late in the fourth quarter. He got a goaltending call and then hit the free throw with under two minutes to play to keep the team in it as the clock winded down. Rhoden remained solid at the free-throw line, hitting two more to put the Pistons up three with 13 seconds left, ultimately contributing to the win.

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