Thomas had 26 points, with seven 3-pointers, in the Pistons' Summer League win over Croatia. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Las Vegas — The opening game was almost a dud for the Pistons.
They trailed at halftime and looked to be in trouble before their three best players shined in the second half and helped lead the Pistons to a 96-80 victory over the Croatia National Team in the first game of the NBA Summer League on Friday afternoon at Cox Pavilion.
Khyri Thomas had 26 points, including seven 3-pointers, in 31 minutes. Svi Mykhailiuk added 17 points and five assists and Todd Withers had 16 points and four rebounds for the Pistons, who will face the Blazers on Saturday afternoon.
The Pistons were without first-round pick Sekou Doumbouya, who had a right-hamstring strain and was held out of the game as a precaution.
Bruce Brown, who was the primary point guard, chipped in 12 points, seven assists and five rebounds and looked comfortable at times to his new backcourt role.
Thomas led the way, though, looking to be in regular-season form with his patience and comfort level almost from start to finish.
“I was just stepping into it and knocking it down without trying to rush the shot or hesitate to shoot it; just let it fly,” Thomas said. “It started with the starters — me and Svi and Bruce. We didn’t set the tone, but we’ve only been playing together since Tuesday and we had to quit (making mistakes)."
The Pistons beat Croatia, 96-80, in the opening game of the NBA Summer League. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
The Pistons led, 20-19, after the first quarter but gave up a 17-2 run midway through the second and trailed, 46-42, at halftime.
Zeljko Sakic (17 points) had a pair of baskets to stem the Pistons’ run but Thomas found his shooting stroke in the second half, with a 3-pointer at the 6:59 mark. That helped the Pistons regain the lead, 52-51, after a 3-pointer by Mykhailiuk.
“They did a great job coming out of halftime and held them to 15 points in the third quarter,” Summer League coach Sean Sweeney said. “All three of our smalls, Khyri, Bruce and Svi, did a great job of being up and into the handler, and the big guys did a great job behind communicating and being alert and giving great energy to finish plays.”
The Pistons stretched the lead to 67-61 after two free throws by Donta Hall (six points and five rebounds) in the final seconds of the period.
The Pistons put it out of reach with a 17-5 run early in the fourth.
It was the first game in the expanded Summer League, with the national teams from China and Croatia joining the 30 NBA teams this year.