In the anticipated head-to-head matchup between lottery picks Justise Winslow and Stanley Johnson, the Miami Heat got the better of the matchup and improved to 3-0 in the Orlando Summer League tournament.
"I think everybody would be lying if they said they didn't have that matchup circled on their calendar," said Summer League head coach Dan Craig. "But I thought (Winslow) did a great job of rising to the moment and the occasion. He came right out of the gate and was aggressive. I think he got us going on both sides of the floor with his offense and his defense and everybody followed suit after that."
With the Heat playing on the second day of a back-to-back set, the team chose to rest several players from their first team including Tyler Johnson, Zoran Dragic, and James Ennis. Henry Walker and Shabazz Napier (sports hernia) also sat out as they continue to recuperate from pre-existing injuries.
Second round pick Josh Richardson (13 points, four rebounds) got the start along with Tyler Kalinoski (12 points, five rebounds, three assists) in the backcourt, but it was Winslow who was the Heat's primary ball-handler during the first half and he methodically punished the Pistons time and time again with effective drives to the rim. Though he struggled from the line initially, missing three of his first six attempts, he showed more of a complete, all-around game than Johnson, who showed flashes of potential but was limited with four personal fouls by halftime.
Winslow's shot wasn't on point but he led all scorers with 17 points on 5-15 shooting and 7-10 from the free throw line. With a different set of teammates working alongside him, he looked for his shot more this time around but only had one assist and did not attempt a single 3-pointer.
He did play tough defense against Johnson and it was just the first of many head-to-head matchups to come between the two lottery picks and friends.
"I really enjoyed playing against him," said Winslow. "He's a top talent. We just make each other better when we play against each other.
"For me, I went No. 10 to the Miami Heat and that was a blessing but I use that motivation of the nine teams that passed on me. I use that motivation every day, every workout, every practice. That's my motivation so it's not something personal about me and Stan, it's using that as motivation to get better. I'm not trying to take it out on any team personally. I'm just trying to do my best, go out there and play my game."
Richardson also struggled at times, both with his shot and he also committed several fouls but remained in the game throughout the second half thanks to the Summer League-only rule that allows 10 personal fouls before fouling out. The defensive mindset is certainly there however, with a breakaway dunk at the start of the fourth quarter as a result of picking off a pass leaving him all alone in transition.
Though he didn't perhaps have as much of an impact as he did in Sunday's victory against the Brooklyn Nets, Willie Reed (13 points, 11 rebounds) continues to show why he deserves serious consideration for a training camp invite and stepped up late in the game on both ends of the floor. The big man battled for rebounds tirelessly and even stepped in front of Stanley Johnson to earn a charge just before halftime.
Reed's best moment came with eight minutes left in the game, when he was fouled in mid-air but still managed to lift the ball inside the basket. His energy and hustle was apparent with each play, though sometimes the ball would stick a little too much when a pass would have been better than forcing the issue.
Joshua Smith, generously listed at 360 pounds, came in for Reed in the third quarter and showed some decent mobility and a bit of a post-up game to the delight of the Heat bench.
Miami held on to a slim lead throughout the game and this continued through the final quarter, where Reed and forward Seth Tuttle fended off Johnson and the Pistons from scoring on dribble-drive penetrations. Richardson drained a 3-pointer at the top of the key with less than three minutes remaining to increase the Heat's lead.
"For Josh, that was real big," said Winslow. "He gave us, I think, three possessions in a row where we went to him and he got three baskets -- he got fouled once and one turnover and one assist. I'll take that any day so that was big for him to stay ready -- not getting many minutes the previous couple of games and just coming out here and being ready."
Johnson picked off a pass intended for Winslow to help the Pistons score a 3-pointer to cut the Heat's lead to two points with seconds remaining. Kalinoski was fouled on the next play but only converted one free throw to make it 76-73 with 10.7 seconds left. Detroit missed another 3-point attempt and Winslow was able to secure the rebound and make both of his free throws to seal the victory.