There's no better place to catch top basketball over the NBA offseason than the Orlando Summer League, where many of the league's best young talents were on display again on Thursday for Day 6.
With free agency in full swing and rumors running rampant, the Amway Center is a rare safe haven from the noise. Here, it's nothing but youngsters competing for roster spots and gunning for early momentum entering the 2014-15 season.
The wins and losses don't much matter, but that doesn't compromise the play one bit. Everyone is playing to gain favor on their respective teams in order to get to the big stage next season.
Let's break down the latest scores and recap the action from Day 6 in Orlando.
|3 p.m.||Pacers 84, Heat 74|
|5 p.m.||Celtics 76, Magic 67|
|7 p.m.||Grizzlies 88, Rockets 74|
Day 6 Recap
Pacers 84, Heat 74
The Miami Heat snuck past the Indiana Pacers in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals, but the Pacers' young guns exacted revenge—however small—Thursday by topping the Heat 84-74 in the opening game of Thursday's Orlando Summer League slate.
It was a balanced scoring attack that led the Pacers to victory. James Nunnally scored a game-high 19 points, while Kevin Jones scored 16 and DeQuan Jones added 12 points for Indiana.
James Ennis led the way for the Heat offensively with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting, and Tyler Johnson contributed 12 points off the bench for Miami. But it wasn't enough to overcome a late Pacer run—Indiana outscored Miami 26-17 in the final frame.
Heat first-round pick Shabazz Napier's struggles in Orlando have been well documented, and they continued on Thursday. The University of Connecticut product finished with seven points and five assists, shooting just 2 of 13 from the field.
While Napier was kept under wraps, he provided one of the game's highlight-reel plays with this alley-oop to Ennis:
The Pacers found their touch in the second half from the three-point range, and it paved the way to their late win. After shooting 0 of 8 as a team from beyond the arc in the first half, they made four of their first six opportunities in the second half.
But just as important as the outside shooting was an overall team effort and a balanced score line. Pacers assistant coach Dan Burke, who is coaching the team in Orlando, told the media about his team's success in sharing the duties after their win Wednesday over Oklahoma City.
"From one time out to the next time out, we expect all-out effort and we're getting it and it's always a team effort," Burke said. "Different guys every game are stepping up and the bench is doing a really good job."
The balanced scoring almost wasn't enough, as 17 team turnovers from Indiana allowed the Heat to stick around in what was a tight affair through three quarters.
But a cold shooting night from the Heat was too much to overcome. As a team, they shot just 36.2 percent from the field—much lower than Indiana's 48.5 percent clip.
Napier's shooting was among the worst, as Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel observed at halftime:
Ennis with an 11-point first half, but Napier 1 of 8 from the field. There clearly are shooting issues there.— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) July 10, 2014
Could Thursday have been Napier's last chance to prove himself before LeBron James makes his decision? ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst and Chris Broussard reported James met with Heat President Pat Riley and left without a commitment, further fueling the fire that is his potential return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Of course, assuming that Orlando Summer League happenings are weighing on James' mind as he enters a legacy-defining decision would be foolish. Still, there is a chance that Thursday's game was the Heat's last appearance on the court before embarking on a new era.
Action for both teams in the Orlando Summer League is now done, with the league concluding on Friday and neither team playing. The Heat will move onto the Las Vegas Summer League next week.
Celtics 76, Magic 67
The Boston Celtics overcame a poor shooting performance and took advantage of 17 Orlando Magic turnovers, paving the way for a 76-67 Celtics win.
Thursday's game was one of the marquee ones of the entire Orlando Summer League, pegging two top-six draft picks—Orlando's Aaron Gordon and Boston's Marcus Smart. Both struggled shooting on the day, but the Celtics guard was the one who stood out.
Smart notched a game-high 19 points and also added five assists, but he finished just 5-of-14 from the field. Gordon struggled much more, scoring seven points and shooting just 3-of-10—although he did grab eight boards.
The Celtics rookie showed his strength with this drive down the lane and finish:
They weren't the only lottery picks in action, as the Magic continued to showcase what Elfrid Payton can do as the point guard of the future. He didn't disappoint, scoring eight points but dishing 10 assists and grabbing nine rebounds—finishing just shy of a double-double and near a triple-double.
The Magic rookie also amassed a whopping seven turnovers, but still left Bleacher Report's Andrew Bailey impressed:
Way-to-early NBA Summer League analysis: Elfrid Payton is better than Marcus Smart.— Andrew Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) July 10, 2014
Payton wasn't the only notable Magic guard to show out on Thursday. Seth Curry led the Magic with 15 points off the bench.
It was a tight game throughout, and the Magic led by three at halftime as well as by one entering the fourth quarter. But when the final frame came around, the Celtics closed on a 27-17 run to put the icing on the victory.
The Celtics shot just 32.4 percent as a team and point guard Phil Pressey went a cold 1-of-15 from the floor. But propelled by 12 fourth-quarter points from Smart, Boston got the win.
With a finishing record of 3-1, the Celtics will have to hope for a tiebreaker to make Friday's championship game. The Magic dropped to 2-2 and thus were eliminated for competing for the Orlando Summer League title.
Grizzlies 88, Rockets 74
The Memphis Grizzlies jumped in front early with a big first quarter, and withstood a Houston Rockets surge to pull out an 88-74 victory to advance to Friday's championship.
Jordan Adams again led the way for the Grizzlies, scoring a team-high 19 points off the bench. He was helped by the starting lineup, as Jamaal Franklin (17 points), Jack Cooley (15) and Jarnell Stokes (12) also finished in double figures.
It looked like the Grizzlies were going to run away with things early on. Memphis outscored Houston 26-17 in the opening frame, and even led by double digits a few times in the first half.
Early plays like this had Memphis feeling good going into halftime:
The Rockets trimmed the deficit to one before the break, but the second half was mostly all Grizzlies. They led by six going into the fourth, and outscored the Rockets by eight in the final frame to put it away.
Despite the loss, Nick Johnson once again emerged as a star for the Rockets. He scored a game-high 22 points, dishing six assists and going 9-of-14 from the floor.
AZCentral.com's Doug Haller sees Johnson making an impact at the next level:
Yes, it's just the Summer League, but the more I watch Nick Johnson, the more I think he's going to do just fine in the NBA.— Doug Haller (@DougHaller) July 11, 2014
The Grizzlies have been one of the more impressive teams to play in the Orlando Summer League, so it's not surprising to see them make Friday's final. They will face the Philadelphia 76ers with the winner taking the title.
Things aren't so hot on the other end, as the Rockets lost their fourth game in as many appearances. After going 0-for-4 in the Orlando Summer League, Houston's action in Amway Center is done.
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