By Josh Cohen
July 4, 2017
ORLANDO – Luke Kennard stepped up to the line with just over a second remaining. He needed to make three straight free throws to tie the game.
Like a seasoned veteran who’s played in plenty of meaningful NBA games before and been in many pressure-packed situations, Kennard coolly knocked down all three after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt.
“I just stayed calm,” Kennard said. “I was more calm than I thought I’d be. Just kind of gives you some confidence knowing that your teammates and coaches have confidence in you. I just felt comfortable in that situation.”
The Detroit Pistons ultimately needed a sudden death overtime to defeat the Miami Heat, 73-71, on Tuesday in Mountain Dew Orlando Pro Summer League action.
But it was that poise from the rookie standout that was perhaps most encouraging for Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy as he watched from inside the Amway Center practice court gym.
The other hero from Tuesday’s win was Pierre Jackson, who connected on a game-winning floater in sudden death OT. The Heat had a chance to win it on the prior possession but couldn’t convert on a pair of shot attempts.
Eric Moreland blocked Okaro White’s shot at the buzzer in regulation. Neither team scored in the first overtime.
“I just love the way he goes out there and competes, he brings great energy to the floor, he’s a defensive presence,” Pistons summer league coach Bob Beyer said about Moreland, who grabbed 10 rebounds. “I think sometimes he’s a little bit too unselfish. I would really like to see him be more aggressive to score. He’s a great team player.”
Kennard and Henry Ellenson led Detroit with 18 points each and Jackson scored 17. White delivered a terrific performance for Miami with 29 points and six rebounds. His assist on a Lamond Murray Jr. 3-pointer with 11.7 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter put the Heat up three.
The Heat’s 2017 first round draft pick, Bam Adebayo, sat out (rest). He’s been one of the most dominant players at this year’s summer league.
Both teams really struggled from the field. The Pistons shot just 38.7 percent from the floor while the Heat were even worse at 34.3 percent. They combined to make 11 3-pointers and dish out 25 assists.
Detroit will take on Charlotte on Wednesday at 3 p.m. while Miami will have the day off.