Pistons' first-round draft pick discusses first game. Rod Beard
Orlando, Fla — Among the Pistons’ objectives on their summer league checklist were to get good looks at second-year big man Henry Ellenson and rookie Luke Kennard and assess them on both ends of the court.
Them being the Pistons’ best 3-point shooters, the task was to get them some good looks and see how they performed on the defensive end.
On Saturday they put a big check mark in the box for shooting and scoring.
The pair combined for 37 points and went 6-of-14 from beyond the arc, but the Pistons fell, 92-91, to the Oklahoma City Thunder in their opener of the Orlando Summer League on Saturday evening at Amway Center.
Ellenson finished with 21 points and nine rebounds and Kennard added 16 points, including 4-of-6 on 3-pointers.
“Henry played well for us. (Michael) Gbinije started well and Luke was a little nervous at the beginning but he settled down and made some nice plays for us,” said Pistons assistant coach Bob Beyer, who is leading the summer league team. “That’s a game that we should win; unfortunately, we came up a little short.”
Pistons power forward discusses 21-point performance in 92-91 loss to Thunder in summer league opener. Rod Beard
Kennard went 6-of-14 from the field, finding his rhythm in the second quarter, with seven points in a three-minute stretch, including a 3-pointer. He admitted there were some nerves but once he got into the flow, things settled down.
“There were nerves in the beginning of the game, my first taste of an actual NBA game. I’m considered a shooter and I’m trying to stay focused and stay confident in my game and my shot, just to make an impact in any way,” said Kennard, who started 1-of-5 from the field.
“I could tell my shot wasn’t falling at the beginning, so I tried to get involved in different ways: making plays and getting guys open — and offense would come. I want to make an impact any way I can in games.”
Ellenson had four points during a critical stretch, when the Pistons had lost the lead in the final minutes. The Pistons answered with a 7-0 run — a 3-pointer by Pierre Jackson (13 points), followed by a jumper just before the end of the shot clock and a pair of free throws by Ellenson — for a 90-84 lead with 58.8 seconds left.
The Pistons looked to have the game under control, holding a 91-87 lead with 11.6 seconds remaining. But a controversial call gave the Thunder a boost.
On an out-of-bounds play, the officials called a foul before the ball was inbounded, which should be one free throw and the ball. The referee gave the Thunder two free throws and the ball. That turned into a five-point trip after Daniel Hamilton (17 points) hit both free throws and followed with a three-point play with 2.8 seconds remaining.
Assistant coach gives an assessment of team's 92-91 loss to the Thunder in the Orlando Summer League opener Saturday. Rod Beard
The Thunder moved ahead, 92-91, and Ellenson missed a last-second attempt.
Beyer wasn’t happy about the incorrect call.
“I didn’t get an explanation on that call. The only thing they said was it was common foul. We were screaming from our bench that it was a one-shot foul. They awarded them two shots — that’s not the rule,” Beyer said. “I don’t know why they gave them two and they told our whole staff to get back. I’m really at a loss; I’m not going to criticize.
“I hope you can’t fine a summer league coach, but that’s the wrong assessment of a foul. It’s a one-shot foul, not two.”