In the previous two years, the Pistons made it to the championship game of the eight-team Orlando Summer League.
In switching to the big tournament in Las Vegas, they had a bigger challenge and a bigger tournament, with all 30 NBA teams represented.
The Pistons again made another run in the tournament, but ran out of steam, falling to the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers, 101-78, in the quarterfinals on Sunday afternoon at Thomas & Mack Center.
The loss put an end to the Pistons two-game win streak in the tournament, they posted a 1-2 mark in the preliminary round.
Henry Ellenson had 22 points and Zach Lofton 21 for the Pistons, who were the 25th seed.
In the first quarter, the Pistons fell into an 18-4 hole in the first six minutes and a 33-14 margin heading into the second.
The lead shrunk to 55-40 at halftime but the Pistons never got below double digits the rest of the way.
The Lakers, who are 5-0 in the tournament, got 19 points from Svi Mykhailiuk and 18 points from Josh Hart.
Here are some observations:
■ Henry Ellenson finished his up-and-down play in Summer League with a 5-of-16 shooting performance, with 2-of-7 on 3-pointers. As the featured scorer — and playing without Luke Kennard, who suffered a knee strain before the first game — defenses were more geared toward Ellenson. He was tinkering with his shot mechanics as well, looking to reposition his release point with his guide (left) hand.
■ Khyri Thomas missed his second straight game, because of a hamstring injury. The team said keeping Thomas out was strictly precautionary, but losing one of their best on-ball defenders didn’t bode well for their chances in the tournament, especially against the top-seeded Lakers. Thomas flashed athleticism and good defensive instincts in his first four games but without him, the Pistons were missing a key offensive piece.
■ For the second straight game, the Pistons struggled to get production from their starting lineup. With Larry Drew II out because of back spasms, Kenneth Smith was forced into a starting role at point guard and was scoreless, as was center Nnanna Egwu, who played just four minutes and had no rebounds and one assist.
■ Zack Lofton played well off the bench, with 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting, in 29 minutes. He had been the best player off the bench for the Pistons in the tournament. It’s unlikely that Lofton will make the Pistons’ roster, but there is a two-way contract available, which also could go again to Reggie Hearn. Keenan Evans has the other two-way position with the Grand Rapids Drive.
■ Rookie Moritz Wagner (Michigan) didn’t play for the Lakers because of an injury. He had an encouraging start to Summer League and should be able to contribute this season. Wagner was a spectator, as was LeBron James, who sat on one of the baselines at Thomas & Mack, to a warm reception from the crowd.