Image credit @UnderdogGraphix
Who: Detroit Pistons (34-32) at Miami Heat (31-35)
What: Playoff Implications
Where: AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, Wade County, Florida
When: Wednesday, March 13, 2019, 7:30 p.m. EST
Why: Gain Some Ground
Injuries: Q-Josh Richardson (Right Hamstring Soreness)
The Heat have a lot on their plate right now. They have just 16 (including this one) games left, and are sitting with a very small lead for the eighth spot. Their leading scorer is questionable tonight, and may struggle to stay in game down the final stretch of the season. If the Heat want to give Wade a playoff berth for his final season, they have to play great basketball for the final 16 games. It starts against Detroit, so let’s talk about it:
The Pistons got absolutely trounced by the Nets, 103-75, on Monday. That sent them down to seventh place, but they still have a 3.0 game lead on the Heat.
The Heat got beat down by the Toronto Raptors, 125-104, without Kawhi Leonard. Eight Raptors scored in double figures, and Bam Adebayo lead all Heat players with 19. Hassan Whiteside only saw 18 minutes off the bench.
These teams have played three times this season, with the Heat only pulling out one win, an OT win early in the season. This is the final game of the season series, and the Heat will look to even things up.
The Pistons, after trading Reggie Bullock, only have three scorers averaging double digits. Blake Griffin is their only player that averages over 20 points per game. Yet, somehow, they make it work.
Their lineup feels more classic, with the focus being on talented bigs rather than guard play. Reggie Jackson is fine, but it’s Griffin and Andre Drummond that really get the job done. Blake Griffin has become a complete player, becoming an odd combination of a volume shooter, ball handler, passer, and athlete. He’s more of a guard than a forward, but he’s still 6’10’’.
Looking at the stat sheet, it’s hard to tell how the Pistons do it. They don’t average high percentages shooting anywhere on the floor, they don’t move the ball well, they don’t draw a ton of fouls. I think that’s why I don’t really like this team that much. They’re vastly unexceptional, but still win games based on the raw talent of Griffin and Drummond alone.
But man, those two guys are talented. Drummond has led the NBA in rebounds three of the last four years (Hassan Whiteside did it once in 2016-17 to break up that streak), and Griffin, as I mentioned, has transformed his game to lead his team. The key on defense is to try and crash the boards to prevent Drummond from playing his game, and to watch Griffin’s isolation game. His step back threes are deadly.
Offensively, keep the game up-tempo. The Heat and Pistons both rank bottom 10 in Pace this season, so if the Heat control the tempo of the game, the Pistons could be run off the floor. Also, the Pistons don’t really have that much of a bench, while the Heat rank eighth in bench scoring this season. Try to win the game with the bench on the floor.
The match-up of the night is definitely Whiteside/Adebayo against Drummond. Holding Drummond away from the boards is no simple task, but the Heat centers are going to have to try.
Final Score Prediction: 115-103 Pistons
The Pistons play the Lakers on Friday (forgive me for rooting for the Pistons, I just think it’s funny to see the Lakers lose).
The Heat play the first-place Bucks on Friday.
The Nets and Pistons, sixth and seventh, seem unreachable at this point. But, the Heat can gain some serious ground with a win against Detroit. The Magic have a three-game stretch of Washington, Cleveland, and Atlanta, so the Heat need to win at least two of their next three to keep pace. The Hornets, just a half-game behind the Magic, have a game against the Heat coming up on Sunday, and a Miami win could push them out of the race for good this season, because of the difficulty of their schedule.