Pistons 87 - HEAT 88 Recap

MIAMI, January 28 – There wasn’t much going in the Miami HEAT’s favor Friday night. On the second night of a back-to-back, after a tough loss in New York, the HEAT, already without Chris Bosh, learned 45 minutes before the game that they would also be down Dwyane Wade, out with a right wrist sprain.

And it didn’t stop there, with LeBron James tweaking his ankle and colliding with Joel Anthony’s knee in the first half. Mike Miller tweaked his ankle as well, but with only two perimeter players available off the bench, he played through nearly 42 minutes with a slight limp.

So it was no surprise that the game lacked any sort of rhythm or general cohesiveness. Through three quarters, both the HEAT and Detroit Pistons were shooting below 42 percent, with Miami shooting 3-of-17 from downtown.

In cases like that, you sometimes have to get lucky, or create your own luck. In the final six minutes of an 88-87 victory, the HEAT did a little bit of both.

“We can easily make an excuse saying how late we got in last night on the second night of a back-to-back,” James said. “No matter who is in uniform, guys have to step up.”

Fast forward to the final 2.7 seconds. Detroit has the ball, down one, and Tayshaun Prince is taking the ball out on the sideline. Austin Daye fakes setting a screen near the arc and beats James Jones on a back door cut. Prince lobs a perfect ball up to the rim, and Daye leaps. Jones sprints back to contest, but Daye has already caught the ball.

Freeze that frame, and 99 percent of voters are going to say the Pistons won the game. But they didn’t. Daye hit front iron on the dunk attempt, and Eddie House threw the ball into the air as the HEAT took the victory.

A fitting image, because without House, the HEAT would have lost their second game in a row.

And here’s where creating your own luck comes into play. Despite the team not being able to hit a single thing through three quarters, the ball continued to find the open players.

Down six with 6:15 to play, James found House cutting backdoor for a layup. Minutes later, down three, Mario Chalmers found House on the wing for three. The next possession it was Jones finding James at the top of the key, followed by an open jumper for House.

“We were much better tonight in those late-game situations than last night [against the Knicks],” Spoelstra said.

Of nine fourth-quarter field goals, seven were assisted, with James contributing nine points and five assists in the period and House scoring 11 of his 15.

Despite that, Miami found itself down one with 15.5 seconds to play after the Pistons went ahead on an open triple from Daye.

Few people would have expected Spoelstra to turn to a James-House pick-and-roll in this situation, even though the HEAT have been running small-small pick sets for the past few weeks since experiencing their injuries. But they did, the difference being that once House freed James, James trusted, and passed back.

The vast majority of the time, House – who may have the quickest shot release in the league – is going to pull up for the shot. But Detroit’s defense swarmed so quickly, as it cut James off from the ball, that House, not normally one to take a defender off the dribble, put the ball on the floor.

And he got fouled.

“If you don’t have a play, you try to make a play for somebody else,” House said, speaking to the team’s trust. “Make it easier for your teammate. At the end that’s what happened. Got fouled, knocked some free throws down.”

Free-throws that won a rather inconspicuous January game on a busy NBA night, but a game that proved the HEAT can rely on their moving parts, and create a little of their own luck in the process.