Thursday's quartet of games marked the penultimate day of action at the NBA's first Summer League event in Orlando, as the sides vied for positioning in their final chance to affect the standings.
Friday's placing games will pit the most compatible teams against one another, and while the victor of this semi-tournament barely matters, these players vying for spots on NBA benches showed that level of pride on Thursday.
Tomorrow will also mark the one day of overlap between the two Summer Leagues, with action in Las Vegas also getting underway as Orlando's festivities are concluding. Some of these players and teams currently playing in Orlando will immediately travel out west, making for quite the interesting couple of weeks.
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Boston Celtics had the day off, having both took part in the first four days of games. Oklahoma City, having won each of its first four games, will play in the first-place contest on Friday. Boston was just 2-2 during its pre-placing games but found the biggest breakout star of the event in first-round pick Kelly Olynyk. The former Gonzaga star excelled in his role as a stretch 4 and has been consistently impressive as an offensive force throughout.
But with those two teams off, let's take a look at the remaining action involving the teams that are actually playing on Thursday in Orlando. With that in mind, here is a complete recap of Friday's quartet of contests.
Full box scores are available on NBA.com.
Indiana Pacers 79, Utah Jazz 73
Spurred by a team-wide effort, the Pacers pulled off a mini-upset over Utah on Thursday, using a strong third-quarter performance to hold off the more talented side.
First-round pick Solomon Hill continued to flash a surprisingly strong all-around game, scoring 12 points on four made three-pointers and grabbing three rebounds. Hill, much maligned when he was taken by Indiana with the No. 23 pick in June, has been solid defensively and his improved three-pointer speaks well to his development.
Justin Harper had a team-high 13 points, as six Pacers had at least seven in the close victory.
Miles Plumlee also had a nice effort. His high-energy, high-athleticism style usually bodes well in these Summer League contest and this week has been no different. He could find himself a spot at the end of Indiana's rotation if the team is unable to find a more consistent back-end big.
Chris Roberts led the Jazz with a game-high 18 points in the losing effort.
That said, the day's major stories surround two starkly different first-round performances. French big man Rudy Gobert made all three of the shots he took en route to an 11-point, eight-rebound effort. Gobert used his length and athleticism to pull down four offensive boards, make put-back dunks and swat away three shots. Though raw, Gobert's trip to Orlando has been a promising sign that he could live up to his destiny as a long big in the middle of a defense.
Utah is likely far more concerned about the continued struggles of Trey Burke. The former Michigan guard has been dreadful from the field in Orlando, a trend that only kept spiraling downward on Thursday. Burke made only three of his 15 shots, including a 0-of-5 mark from beyond the arc, to finish with eight points. Over the course of three games, Burke is shooting 21.4 percent and has only knocked down one of his 15 attempts from three-point range.
There's an old saying that goes along with Summer League action. It's that you never really learn who can play, but you learn who can't. Burke, the collegiate National Player of the Year last season, has looked a whole lot like someone who can't thus far.
Considering he's the final piece of the Puzzle for the Deron Williams trade—Utah traded the No. 14 pick and the No. 21 pick, acquired in the Williams deal, for Burke's rights—this is awfully disconcerting.
Burke's biggest competition for the starting point guard spot, Alec Burks, did not play on Thursday. The Jazz and Pacers are now 2-2, and their opponent Friday will be determined by the remainder of the day's results.
Detroit Pistons 78, Miami Heat 77
Tony Mitchell didn't have the best game of his life, shooting 2-of-8 from the field and scoring seven points, but the former North Texas star was in the right place when it counted on Thursday.
With time waning down and Detroit down by a basket, Korie Lucious raised up for what would have been a game-winning basket. The shot went clanking off the rim, into Mitchell's hands and the second-rounder put it in with just 1.7 seconds remaining.
That said, even Mitchell's game-winner was overshadowed by a dominant day from Andre Drummond.
If you're wondering why the Pistons look at Drummond as a potential franchise cornerstone, look no further. The seven-footer scored a game-high 23 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked two shots, completely taking over as most of his teammates struggled from the field.
Matched up against the undersized Jarvis Varnado for most of the contest, Drummond was aggressive from the outset. He pounded Varnado down low and got multiple chances in isolation, showing off a couple nifty post moves that bode well for his offensive development. Many of Drummond's points, as they're wont to do, came off his seven offensive rebounds—a figure only four fewer than Miami's entire team.
What's most shocking is that Drummond, already one year into his NBA career, is still the youngest player in Orlando. It's unclear whether Drummond will start in October—the addition of Josh Smith leaves the team's big-man rotation up in the air—but his development has to be exciting for Pistons fans.
Peyton Siva also turned in a nice outing with nine assists and a nifty reverse layup.
The hubbub in Detroit overshadowed another strong teamwide effort from Miami. Four different players scored in double-figures, including Ian Clark's team-high 15. The former Belmont standout doesn't have much of a chance to make the defending champs' bench, but he's done a nice job at running the offense and has knocked down a majority of his open shots.
Second-round pick James Ennis disappeared a bit against the Pistons, scoring only seven points on 3-of-7 shooting. He was fine on the defensive end as he's wont to be, but it was interesting to see other teams be more aggressive.
The Pistons and Heat are 2-2, and their Friday opponents will be determined by later action.
Houston Rockets 92, Brooklyn Nets 76
It's hard for a Summer League contest to feel like it's preordained from the beginning, but the Rockets' rout Brooklyn was about as close as humanly possible. Brooklyn, which brought only a few players with a remote chance of making its senior squad, had been pummeled in its three prior games. Houston, bringing an eclectic roster of young talent including (possible) starting point guard Patrick Beverley, was undefeated.
This game went exactly as planned from the opening tip. Houston burst out of the gate to a 25-6 first-quarter victory and never looked back. Six of the eight Rockets players who got minutes on Thursday scored nine points or more, five of whom were over the 12-point plateau.
Terrence Jones and Robert Covington led the way for Houston with 16 points. Jones' impressive performance continued a strong of them for the second-year forward, who will be pushing to be Kevin McHale's third big in the rotation. The Kentucky product added seven assists to his point total and knocked down two from beyond the arc—a wrinkle in his game he's been trying a lot down in Orlando.
Greg Smith took advantage of his chance to start at the 5 again as well, showing a couple of nice post moves and proficiency on the boards en route to a 12-point, nine-rebound outing. Beverley, the other Rockets player who will see a good amount of minutes next season, did not play for the second consecutive game.
Three players—Tyshawn Taylor, Damion James and Carleton Scott—led the Nets with 15 points. Taylor, who has been excellent two years running during the Summer League, added seven assists and got to the line eight times. It'll be interesting to see whether Taylor can parlay that into anything with the senior club, unlike last season where he was essentially a forgotten man.
First-round pick Mason Plumlee had his second consecutive disappointing performance. He scored just six points and grabbed only five rebounds, sometimes getting bullied by Smith when matched up against the undersize forward.
Houston will play Oklahoma City in Friday's first-place matchup at 11 a.m. Brooklyn's opponent on Friday will be determined by the result of the Sixers-Magic contest.
5 p.m. ET: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Orlando Magic
Rounding out the day's action, the hometown Orlando Magic ensured that the Philadelphia 76ers would remain winless, edging out the 0-4 Sixers, 90-89.
The game came down to the final minutes as Victor Oladipo hit the game-winner with just 4.4 seconds left after an Arslan Kazemi dunk gave the Sixers a three-point lead going into the final minute.
The game-winner was just the icing on the cake in a solid outing for the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft. He led all scorers with 24 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field. Moe Harkless also stood out for the Magic with his 15-point, five rebound and four assist performance, including this dunk.
The Sixers saw their struggles continue as point guard Michael Carter-Williams had an up-and-down performance. He registered nine assists for the game, but also committed eight turnovers and went 3-of-10 from the field.
Arnett Moultrie was the lone bright spot for Philadelphia, he posted a strong double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds including eight on the offensive glass.
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