Second-quarter dominance allows Miami to ease by Pistons
Friday night he came to The Palace for his first visit as anything but a Cavalier and gave Pistons fans glaring evidence of why he chose to flee Cleveland and join forces with Wade and Bosh.
Content to play defense, run the floor and orchestrate a series of plays for highlight-reel consideration in newsrooms everywhere, James scored only 16 points in a Miami rout. Picking his spots for controlled bursts of furious basketball brilliance, James dished out 10 assists and grabbed eight rebounds.
Wade, meanwhile, made his own run at a triple-double with 24 points, eight boards and seven assists. Bosh settled for 17 and 10, scoring 13 of his points in the decisive second quarter when the Heat scored 10 points in transition among their 39 as they outscored the Pistons by 17 in what would be a 14-point margin of victory, 106-92.
“They’re a good team,” Pistons rookie Greg Monroe said. “It’s no secret. They’re on a roll. They made plays they needed to make to build a lead.”
The Heat have obvious holes. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, well past his prime, is the starting center, and Mario Chalmers would be a huge liability as the starting point guard on any team that couldn’t flank him on the wings with two future Hall of Famers.
But Miami’s strengths – namely, James, Wade and Bosh, with heavy emphasis on the first two – are overwhelming. So devastatingly athletic and skilled are Miami’s big three, their weaknesses almost taunt opponents. And when they come to work in a serious mood, determined to crank up their athleticism to full effect, nights like the Pistons experienced Friday are bound to happen with more than passing frequency.
“They’re a very dangerous team,” Charlie Villanueva said. “They have so much firepower on that team. The first 20 games or whatever, they were struggling, but they’re clicking now and playing really good basketball.”
There might be better teams over 48 minutes in Miami, but maybe nobody but the Lakers can put together bursts of five or 10 minutes so dominant they essentially decide outcomes.
After the Pistons cut an early 11-point deficit to four by the end of the first quarter, it appeared they had averted an early crisis and would hang around to give themselves a chance to win. But early in the second quarter – with James on the bench, no less – the Heat went on a 10-0 run that took a mere 87 seconds.
But again the Pistons recovered, cutting the 14-point deficit to eight by the time James re-entered. Miami’s lead soon swelled to 23 as the Pistons kept fueling Miami’s lethal transition game with missed shots – they were 1 of 9 from the 3-point arc and missed at least four second-quarter layups, both shots that typically open up transition opportunities.
“That second group came in and got good shots,” John Kuester said. “Unfortunately, they got lost in transition and they made us pay every possession. Their ability to get momentum plays … sucks the wind out of the crowd. That period where we were 1 for 9, that hurt. Having four turnovers in our first seven possessions, those are things that bite you in the butt against a team of that quality.”
Tayshaun Prince was the only Pistons starter in double figures, scoring 11 on a night Rodney Stuckey returned to the starting lineup. Austin Daye scored 18 off the bench, 15 in the fourth quarter, and Ben Gordon added 16.
“They’re a great transition team,” Villanueva said. “I think a lot of people don’t give them credit for that. But they run the floor. Their style of play is based on getting out in transition.”
For a Pistons team itself in transition, it was all too much on a night LeBron James had his full complement of weapons alongside him.