By Josh Cohen
July 1, 2017
ORLANDO – In what turned out to be the most exciting game on Day One of 2017 summer league action, the Oklahoma City Thunder overcame a six-point deficit in the final minute to secure a thrilling 92-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Daniel Hamilton, who finished with 17 points, converted on a putback go-ahead AND-1 with 2.8 seconds remaining. While he struggled from the floor (3-of-12), Hamilton was ultra-aggressive all game and attempted 11 free throws.
“I played bad for three quarters straight so I just tried to come out and finish out strong because I definitely don’t want to lose, I hate losing, so I just tried to come out and do what I can to help the team win,” said Hamilton, who was in the Thunder’s G-League system this past season.
Vincent Hunter, who played his college ball at UTEP and most recently played in the G-League and overseas, delivered a sensational performance with 21 points and seven rebounds. Known for his high energy, motor and toughness, Hunter is now developing his outside shot. He knocked down a pair of triples and displayed improved form and confidence.
Noticeably leaner to help compensate for his below average athleticism, Dakari Johnson looked far more comfortable on both ends of the floor. Still just 21 years old, Johnson had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. He was OKC’s second round draft pick in 2015.
“When I came out and I was with the Blue all season I really focused 24/7 on eating right,” Johnson said. “I had people on the Blue staff, the Thunder staff that really helped me, helped my body and told me what I need to eat.”
While disappointed about their late-game execution, the Pistons must be encouraged from what they saw from second-year forward Henry Ellenson and rookie guard Luke Kennard.
Ellenson (21 points, nine rebounds) appears to have added some muscle to his frame, which will help him be more physical and aggressive down low, and he looked more comfortable shooting from long distance. He made a pair of threes but missed a potential game-winning triple at the buzzer.
Kennard (16 points, 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range) showed off his superb shooting form and mechanics. With good size and a high basketball IQ, Kennard should be able to contribute right away for Stan Van Gundy.
Detroit led by as many as 14. OKC, however, outscored the Pistons by 16 in the paint and it had more second chance points and fast break points.