Bob Wojowski, John Niyo and Rod Beard of The Detroit News talk about the new-look Pistons. The Detroit News
The Pistons aren’t ready to end their run in the Las Vegas Summer League tournament.
After falling into a 10-point deficit in the first quarter, the Pistons came back, took an 18-point lead and held on for a 72-66 win over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday afternoon at Cox Pavilion.
The victory puts the 25th-seeded Pistons into the quarterfinals of the tournament, against the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday at 4 Eastern on ESPN.
It’s the third straight win for the Pistons, who started 1-2 in the preliminary rounds, but have been surprising in their tournament run.
Henry Ellenson had 21 points, on 7-of-15 shooting, with five rebounds and three assists.
“Guys were really unselfish. They were switching a lot of things and we were taking the mismatches,” Ellenson said on NBATV. “Guys had good composure, especially with the late-game charge the Bulls made.”
The Bulls led, 23-13, after the first period and the Pistons stormed to a 10-0 run, as part of a 20-7 stretch to put the Pistons ahead. Rookie Bruce Brown Jr. (12 points, eight rebounds and four assists) hit a buzzer-beater for a 40-34 lead at halftime.
The Bulls didn’t quit, using a 13-0 run to cut the Pistons’ lead to 56-51 early in the fourth quarter. They got it down to three in the final minute, with an 11-1 run over a three-minute stretch and got within 69-66 in the final 20 seconds. Reggie Hearn (13 points) and Brown combined to make three of four free throws in the final 10.3 seconds for the final margin.
Antonio Blakeney had 16 of his 22 points and rookie Wendell Carter Jr. added six points and 16 rebounds for the Bulls, who were eliminated.
Here are some observations from the Pistons’ win:
■ The focus continues to be Ellenson, who is entering his third season. He had a better shooting day, going 7-of-15 from the field and only 1-of-4 on 3-pointers. Ellenson’s shot consistency has been shaky, but he found some success on the perimeter and in the paint on Saturday. During the season, he wouldn’t have as much of a featured role, but he hasn’t yet had a breakout game to show new coach Dwane Casey his potential.
■ Rookie Khyri Thomas, who has been the Pistons’ most consistent player in Las Vegas, didn’t play, presumably because of an injury. He was on the bench but never entered the game and Hearn started on the wing after Thomas had started the first four games of Summer League.
■ There isn’t a lot to glean from the Summer League, given that likely only three players — Ellenson, Thomas and Brown — will make the regular roster. There have been some good strings of defensive play, but also some bad stretches of offense and not being able to make a shot. Moreover, they did it Saturday with two starters — Nnanna Egwu and Speedy Smith — who didn’t score. They’ve been able to overcome that.
■ Brown is having a good stretch of games for himself. He’s proving to be a good defender on the wing and a capable scorer as well. He had a tournament-best 15 points in the last game and added 12 Saturday, with some athletic moves around the rim. He has good size, which will suit him well as he tries to get some minutes in the rotation during training camp.
■ Eric Griffin was assessed a flagrant-1 foul after bumping into Bulls rookie Wendell Carter Jr. in the second half. That helped the Bulls claw at the deficit. It looked to be fairly innocuous, but the officials reviewed the play and gave Griffin the more severe call.