HEAT 100 - Pistons 94 Recap

In a basketball sense, it’s easy to fall into a spiral of righteousness about games such as this. It shouldn’t have been so difficult, some might think. The Miami HEAT should have won by a greater margin than 100-94 over the Detroit Pistons. So close to the playoffs, the HEAT should be nearly perfect against teams like this.

Despite all the hurdles in that line of thinking, the one that can really trip you up is the line, “teams like this.”

The Pistons will not make the playoffs this season. That’s the big picture item. But relative to tonight, that means nothing. Detroit played like a team ready to do damage, operating above their usual offensive efficiency against one of the league’s best defenses, moving the ball, forcing mismatches with off-ball screens and taking advantage against every hole in Miami’s defense.

And tonight, there were plenty.

“We were getting our tails handed to us, and it was humbling through three quarters,” Erik Spoelstra said. “If you’re not bringing your best effort with a real sense of urgency, and a real disposition on that side of the floor, that can happen.”

At least 26 points through each of the first three quarters for Detroit, and despite some wonky possessions in the first period, it was sustainable offense. The HEAT were getting outright beat to spots, and passes that rarely see the paint against them were whipping inside for layups.

While many were sure to be upset, it had the feeling of an entirely forgettable game for Miami, one indicative of very little but frustrating nonetheless.

“We just stayed the course,” LeBron James said. “Through three quarters, they basically got whatever they wanted to.”

Everything changed in the fourth quarter, when an energetic Miami defense held its opponent to 13 points, locking down the interior and limiting the Pistons to one-shot possessions. The first three quarters were lethargic enough that it was nothing out of the ordinary for a HEAT team that is so consistent defensively it sometimes isn’t even a talking point, but it remains the reason for winning.

That, and when LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were all having efficient – 66 points on 21-of-40 shooting – but strangely shaky offensive nights, the role players kept things moving along. There were the 26 points from the bench, but more importantly, six threes from Mike Miller, Mike Bibby – starting at point guard – and James Jones which kept the floor spread well enough to enable Miami’s primary scorers the room the operate during a 21-4 run to open the final quarter.

Once that run was over, the HEAT led by seven with just under four minutes to play. The Pistons had a mere two field goals in quarter to that point, and would only score two more field goals the rest of the way.

“We had to keep grinding, and turn up the intensity on defense,” Dwyane Wade said. “Once we were able to do that, we got the lead.

“We found a way to come back and get the win.”

Now, most eyes head back to the conference standings, where the HEAT are a game and a half – plus more counting tie breakers – of the Boston Celtics for the second seed, which will likely decide whether Miami plays the New York Knicks or Philadelphia 76ers, in Miami this Friday for a possible postseason preview, in the first round of the playoffs.

But who they play is far less important than how the HEAT are playing. They weren’t at their best tonight in Detroit, but rather than reaching acceptance with that fact, they found their best at the end.