by Jake Fischer / @JakeLFischer
ORLANDO — The bright lights and big stage of Las Vegas make Orlando seem like a simple suburb. On Thursday, several players and members of the media fled the “small town” where the Magic reside to get ready for the big show with 22 teams. As the Amway Center practice facility grew quieter and more spacious, the competition on the court grew more tense and entertaining. These young guys have been playing together for over a week now, if you include practices and minicamps. Their chemistry on the court is definitely starting to show.
-The Oklahoma City Thunder were off today for this first time this week. It was a well-deserved rest for the Thunder, as their 4-0 record guarantees them a spot in the “championship game” on Friday. The Celtics were also off today, but only Kelly Olynyk really deserved the rest.
-Rudy Gobert made his length very evident today in Game 1. He blocked 3 shots and grabbed 8 rebounds while also scoring 11 points. At one point, I swear his fingertips were almost at the top of the backboard on when he went for a rebound. Trey Burke is still struggling in his first week of professional basketball. But, too be fair, he doesn’t have much NBA talent around him right now.
-Solomon Hill was again a key cog in the Pacers’ rotation. In 31 minutes, the Arizona product hung 12 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists on the Jazz. He might be the most impressive player this week in terms of defying his critiques.
-Miles Plumlee, who had been playing terrific basketball on both ends of the floor, twisted his ankle and unfortunately had to leave the game.
-The day’s second game, which featured the Heat and Pistons, was like watching a bunch of superheroes aerial sumo wrestling. It seemed like every time the Heat’s DJ Stephens leaped three feet into the air, Andre Drummond or Tony Mitchell were right there ready to clash. It might have been the most impressive showing of verticality the basketball world has seen in a long time.
-Outside of the high-jump contest, the game was also rather entertaining and really competitive. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had another strong game for the Pistons with 15 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists. And the game went down to the final buzzer.
-Peyton Siva went down late in the fourth quarter, rolling his left ankle after a beautiful lob to Drummond. Sheed then signaled to a referee, “injury timeout, cuz!” But, there is no such thing in Summer League…Then the Pistons went absolutely crazy as Mitchell slammed home an errant Korie Lucious floater to win the game, 78-77.
-Honestly, Wallace has done more coaching for the Pistons this week than Jason Kidd has for the Nets. Obviously it’s just Summer League, and they have two totally different roles, but that will be something to keep in mind.
-In the third game of the day, a battle between the Houston Rockets and Brooklyn Nets, Houston’s size, strength and speed made the difference. The game was never really close largely impart to Terrence Jones and Greg Smith—both guys who arguably shouldn’t be in Summer League. Those two bigs combined for 28 points, 14 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals.
-For Brooklyn, Mason Plumlee again played limited minutes and was not overly effective. Jason Kidd wasn’t even on the sideline during the majority of the game. That franchise clearly only cares about next season, and they have a lot to look forward to.
-James Southerland spent warmups for the day’s final contest dunking very hard and throwing a series of lobs to himself off the backboard. He needed to do something after his jumper’s been broken here.
-The Magic got off to a hot start against the Sixers, going up 27-18 after the first quarter. Victor Oladipo lead the opening charge with 10 points.
-The Sixers picked it up as the game went on and won the next two quarters. The two teams were knotted up at 69 entering the final period after a slew of great plays by Michael Carter-Williams, Arnett Moultrie’s activity around the rim and hot shooting from James Southerland. Maybe his pre game dunk routine warmed him up.
-It all came down to Victor Oladipo drilling a long step-back two in MCW’s grill with 4.4 seconds left to give Orlando the lead for good. Khalif Wyatt had a good look at the end but it ended up off the mark.
-The Sixers (0-4) will now play against the 0-4 Brooklyn Nets in the last place game on “Championship Friday.” Oklahoma City (4-0) will square off against Houston (4-0) in the League’s championship game at noon.