Knight Leads Pistons Past Celtics

Fab Melo, Andre Drummond

Fab Melo was one of four players who made their first start for Boston during Thursday's game against Detroit.
Fernando Medina/Boston Celtics

ORLANDO, Fla. – A bid to end the Orlando Pro Summer League with an undefeated record ended Thursday afternoon for the Boston Celtics. They fell 93-79 to the Detroit Pistons in the first game of the day at Amway Center’s practice court, dropping their overall record to 3-1.

Boston’s coaching staff altered its starting lineup in order to get a better look at some players who had played limited minutes through the first three games. That decision resulted in the Celtics displaying some sloppy play early on, and they could never dig themselves out of an early deficit.

Brandon Knight, the No. 12 pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, was a dominant force for the Pistons on Thursday. He played a major role in Detroit’s hot start, tallying 10 points, three rebounds and seven assists in the first half alone.

Knight’s stellar play drove the Pistons out to a 25-17 lead at the end of the first quarter. That lead ballooned to 53-36 by the time halftime arrived.

Detroit’s lead grew to 17 points after just 20 minutes of play because its players were red-hot from the field. They shot 57.1 percent in the first half, including a 6-for-11 showing from downtown.

While the Pistons seemed to capitalize on every open look they were given, Celtics summer league head coach Tyronn Lue put the blame on his team.

“Our pick-and-roll defense was terrible,” said Lue. “Our weak-side defense was horrible.”

Things got a little better for Boston once the second half began, thanks in large part to Lue’s decision to revert to his top lineup of E’Twaun Moore, Dionte Christmas, Kris Joseph, Jared Sullinger and JaJuan Johnson. That fivesome played the majority of the second half and actually pulled the Celtics back within seven points early in the fourth quarter.

The comeback was sparked by Boston’s aggressiveness at both ends, which led to a whopping 15 free throw attempts in the third quarter. Sullinger shot 5-of-6 from the line in the quarter, Joseph made two of his three attempts, and Johnson knocked down two of his four attempts.

With Boston mounting a dramatic comeback, it would have been easy for the Pistons to fold. However, with the steady hands of Knight and teammate Austin Daye, both of whom have significant NBA experience, Detroit responded with a strong push to finish the fourth quarter.

Detroit closed out the contest on a 26-11 run to put Boston away and give the C’s their first blemish on their summer league record. Knight’s 19 points, three rebounds and 14 assists were the main reason why the Pistons were able to upend the Celts. Daye also poured in 15 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots for Detroit.

Despite the 14-point loss, there were bright spots for the C’s. Joseph strung together his best game of the week, logging a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds, both of which were team highs. Johnson tied Joseph for the team high in scoring with 17 points thanks to a 6-of-12 shooting performance. Additionally, Sullinger (11 points, seven rebounds) and Christmas (10 points, eight rebounds) played well during their extended minutes in the second half.

Both the Celtics and the Pistons are scheduled to wrap up their five-game schedules in this league on Friday. Boston will take on the Magic at 10 a.m., while the Pistons will host the 76ers at 12 p.m.