Heat Snap Streak
Slow starts to both halves doom Pistons as 4-game win streak ends
The Pistons survived a sluggish start to the game, coming from 11 back early to within two points. But a similarly disastrous start to the third quarter undid them, especially when they were playing without three of their top four guards in Rodney Stuckey (left knee tendinitis), Chauncey Billups (ditto) and Will Bynum (left adductor strain, an upper leg injury).
Yes, Miami was without Dwyane Wade. And they replaced him with a Hall of Famer, Ray Allen, while the Pistons had to lean heavily on rookie guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Peyton Siva to provide a modicum of relief for the only other healthy guard left, Brandon Jennings.
Recipe for seeing your four-game win streak snapped at home: spot an angry veteran bent on revenge for a loss it considered embarrassing – the Pistons won at Miami five nights earlier, 107-97 – five lethargic minutes at the start of each half.
“They started the game out getting easy baskets,” Maurice Cheeks said, as all of Miami’s first 12 points came in transition. “That’s what started it for them – missed shots by us, push the ball up, layups. But you know what? You can kind of sense that from a Miami Heat team, defending champions. You kind of knew their focus would be a little different, a little higher, and it was. Clearly, it was from the start and the third quarter.”
The Heat rallied from 15 points back in the fourth quarter at Miami to within three thanks largely to a swarming defense that engulfed Brandon Jennings and made it difficult for him to pass out of traps 30 feet from the basket. Cheeks countered by having Jennings get the ball to Stuckey via dribble handoffs and letting him attack. That option wasn’t available to the Pistons with Stuckey missing the game after limping to the bench before halftime of Saturday’s win at Chicago.
“Missing Stuck was big for us, but they were missing some pieces, too,” said Kyle Singler, one of seven Pistons in double figures with 10 off the bench. “I’m not going to make excuses for it. We would like to be at full strength, but the circumstances were we were shorthanded and had to play with what we had. The third quarter, we just didn’t come out and give what we had.”
“They wanted to come in here and get revenge.”- Kyle Singler on the Miami Heat
Full game quotes
Cheeks had to patch together lineup combinations he probably never imagined, especially after Jennings picked up his third foul five minutes before halftime. At one point, Cheeks had rookie guards Peyton Siva and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope out with a frontcourt of Josh Harrellson, Charlie Villanueva and Jonas Jerebko. They held their own, too, cutting Miami’s eight-point lead in half before Cheeks sent Monroe in for Jerebko after three minutes.
But the Pistons, minus Stuckey’s firepower off the bench, just didn’t have enough scoring to hang with Miami on a night the Heat were getting too many easy points – first in transition, later at the 3-point line. Miami veterans Rashard Lewis and Roger Mason Jr. combined to sink seven 3-pointers and the Heat bench shot 15 of 24 with big contributions from Chris Andersen and Norris Cole, as well. Miami shot 56 percent, 65 in the first half.
“It was a different team (than the Miami team the Pistons beat in Miami),” Cheeks said. “They had a few guys come off the bench that made a different. Rashard Lewis, Roger Mason, they made a difference in terms of shooting the ball.”
The Pistons fully expected what they got from Miami, too – the aggression out of the gate, a fully engaged LeBron James, who flashed his MVP chops with 24 points on 10 of 15 shooting to go with nine assists, seven boards and two steals. But as Cheeks pointed out …
“It’s one thing of knowing and another thing of doing something about it. We talked about it after the game, understanding where they are, the level they would come in, and they did. It wasn’t a secret to anybody that they would come in a little higher than they were the last game. We can learn something from it. Any time you’re playing the defending champions, you can learn something from it.”
“That’s a championship team right there,” said Andre Drummond, who put up another screaming stat line: 19 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. “We knew what was coming. We knew they were going to come in full steam ahead and they did what they needed to do tonight and got the win.”