Johnson’s 3-pointers key Pistons’ win over Pacers

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Orlando, Fla. — It’s not always pretty, but for the Pistons, a win is a win, even if it’s Summer League.

The Pistons improved to 3-0 with a gutty final two minutes, taking an 80-76 victory over the Pacers on Tuesday at Amway Center.

Stanley Johnson led the way with 16 points — including a pair of 3-pointers the final two minutes — and added five rebounds and four steals. Rookie Henry Ellenson added 14 points and Lorenzo Brown had 13 points.

In the Orlando Summer League scoring system, a team gets four points for each win and one for winning a quarter. The Pistons won two quarters Tuesday, plus tied in the fourth quarter, garnering 6 1/2 points, bringing their total to 21 1/2, a half point behind the Heat, their opponent Thursday.

Johnson missed his first five 3-pointers but made the two that were most important, after being guarded closely by Glenn Robinson III (Michigan). Johnson is 3-for-17 on 3-pointers overall, but remains one of the focal points of the league in individual workouts.

“I just really feel like my shot is going to go in; I have to keep shooting until it goes in,” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve played 5-on-5, so a lot of this stuff in drills is easier when you know you have extra shots and it’s just a drill.

“Through the first three games, I got some comfortable attempts up like I wanted to do; now I can make it more natural in a game setting.”

Johnson’s 3-pointer with 1 minute 49 seconds left gave the Pistons a 72-71 lead, but Robinson (20 points, seven rebounds) split a pair of free throws to tie it. Johnson added the second 3-pointer with 55.1 seconds left, which again gave the Pistons a 75-74 lead. He also assisted on a nice drive by Kaleb Tarczewski (nine points) to give the Pistons the lead for good.

With 6.9 seconds left, Pacers guard Joe Young was looking to get the lead, but Tarczewski challenged his drive and the Pistons got the lead and put the game away with three free throws in the final 4.3 seconds, including the final two by Johnson.

“We had a breakdown on defense and Kaleb stepped up and challenged the shot,” Johnson said. “That’s an easy shot for (Young) if he doesn’t come and challenge the way he did.”

Easing in

Ellenson continued to impress with his comfort level in handling the ball on the perimeter and finding his shot. At 6-foot-11, he’s become a mismatch for many other big defenders with his nimbleness and footwork.

In Tuesday’s victory, he went 2-of-4 on 3-pointers and added an off-balance, one-footed jumper as the shot clock expired. Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy likes the confidence that Ellenson has shown in all three games and practices.

“I don’t think Henry has any problem being sure of himself,” Van Gundy said. “One of the things I’ve been really impressed with is that he plays the game with great offensive confidence. He thinks he can score on anybody. He definitely can create shots for himself; he’s just going to have to shoot the ball more consistently than he has.

“I don’t’ think there’s anything that drastically needs to be corrected but there are a couple of tweaks in his shooting mechanics. We won’t get to those while we’re here; that’s more when he gets back.”