Detroit Pistons at Miami HEAT Game Preview

Rodney McGruder
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon

The Miami HEAT host the Detroit Pistons Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: What was behind Toronto being able to tie a franchise record with 21 threes?

Couper Moorhead: While the natural instinct would be to say that Toronto earned a number of threes by whipping the ball around against Miami’s zone, the HEAT only played nine total possessions of zone. Rather, most of the damage the Raptors did from deep was in transition and semi-transition where the ball was pushed off a rebound and created defensive mismatches, leading to the wrong players getting open. In that sense it was a temporary resurfacing of an issue from earlier in the season when the league’s ultra-fast teams were giving Miami some issues in the open floor, but that’s something the HEAT cleaned up since then. What made things worse Sunday afternoon was that the HEAT weren’t hitting the shots they were getting, shooting 8-of-27 from deep, and those misses led to many of Toronto’s run outs. The HEAT spent time at Tuesday’s practice doing some defensive maintenance – Erik Spoelstra said they practiced as though every player on the floor was Danny Green – but sometimes just hitting your shots can help balance the transition game out.

Joe Beguiristain: As Coup mentioned above, the Raptors got a bunch of good looks from deep thanks to their ability to push the ball in transition and play off misses. After Danny Green did his thing in the first half with four treys, Kyle Lowry picked up where he left off and drilled four of his own after halftime. And even though Toronto had control of the game for most of the afternoon, Dwyane Wade and Dion Waiters made some noise in the third quarter to try and narrow the gap.

It ultimately wasn’t enough in the end, but you need to play a near-perfect game when the opposition shoots 52.5 percent from beyond the arc on high volume.

Kelly Olynyk, Langston Galloway2: How was Detroit able to build their lead the last time they visited Miami?

Couper: It was again about the threes, but unlike Toronto where the threes were a result of speed, the Pistons hit 14-of-33 from deep and did a ton of it out of their half-court sets. Detroit won the second quarter 34-17 behind 10 points from Luke Kennard – playing very well since the trade deadline – and then Langston Galloway, who didn’t even play in the first half, broke things open with 17 points on 4-of-5 shooting after the break. Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond did their thing, but with the threes falling and then with Ish Smith scoring 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting, there was just too much offense for Miami to contend with as they made just 7-of-28 from deep. In can feel a bit reductive to focus so much on three-point shooting but with the way the game is played these days having an off night while your opponent tops 40 percent is usually a recipe for a double-digit deficit.

Joe: After the HEAT got off to a quick start, the Pistons picked things up in the second quarter and eventually led by as many as 26 in the fourth. And of course, three-point shooting was a big reason why, as Langston Galloway and Luke Kennard caught fire from downtown.

That said, Miami did make a surge in the third quarter behind Kelly Olynyk and Josh Richardson. In particular, Olynyk shrewdly drew fouls on Andre Drummond and took advantage from the charity stripe. If KO and the rest of the HEAT’s bigs can get the UConn product in foul trouble, then things will be a little easier on Wednesday night.

At the end of the day, though, it’s all about Miami sticking to its defensive principles and playing the way its capable of on that end of the floor.

3: Now that Miami is healthy, for the time being, how could that help against the Pistons?

Couper: Part of the reason Detroit was able to get so many threes up in the half-court is that the HEAT were missing both Justise Winslow and James Johnson. Johnson hasn’t been playing a ton of regular minutes lately but against Detroit both he and Winslow can be especially important against the speed and athleticism of Griffin. Without those two defenders, the HEAT often had to send extra help at Griffin, thus bending their defense in a way that the Pistons were able to whip the ball around and find the open man, often in the opposite corner from where Griffin started with the ball. Having two of their best individual defenders back on the active roster will help Miami keep a more balanced orientation on that end. That being said, Josh Richardson is also questionable so after being fully healthy for a couple games the HEAT could be down one of their starters.

Joe: Well, J. Rich was recently added to the injury report with right hamstring soreness, so his status for Wednesday night remains to be seen. As of this writing, he’s listed as questionable to play.

Otherwise, the HEAT are much healthier than they were in that last matchup with Detroit on Feb. 23. In addition to James Johnson and Justise Winslow being out of that prior meeting like Coup stated above, Rodney McGruder also missed the second half after bruising his right knee in the second quarter.

Speaking of McGruder, the 27-year-old swingman has been playing much better in the month of March, averaging 10.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.0 steal per game on 48.5 percent shooting over his past five outings.

We’ll see how Winslow, JJ and McGruder change things this time around.

INJURY UPDATE: Richardson will be available. 

Pistons at HEAT Head To Head

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT have dropped two of the three previous matchups with the Pistons this season.
  • Miami has won five of seven and is 31-35 on the year, while Detroit has won eight of ten and enters the contest at 34-32.
  • The HEAT haven’t recorded a losing record after the All-Star Break in a decade.
  • Blake Griffin leads the Pistons in points (25.1) and assists (5.4) per game.
  • Josh Richardson (Right Hamstring Soreness) is questionable.

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 107.1 (23)
  • HEAT Defense: 107.8 (9)
  • Pistons Offense: 107.9 (20)
  • Pistons Defense: 108.1 (12)

For live in-game updates of Wednesday night’s contest, follow @MiamiHEAT, @CoupNBA and @JoeBeguiristain on Twitter.


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