Detroit Pistons at Miami HEAT Game Preview

Photo Credit: Oscar Baldizon

The Miami HEAT host the Detroit Pistons Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Pistons 112-103 in their last meeting on Nov. 12. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: How were the HEAT able to pull off the comeback win against Orlando?

Couper Moorhead: After being down by as much as 18 points, the HEAT, on the second night of a back-to-back, outscored Orlando 67-45 in the second half to secure the win. In general, the most important thing they did was stop allowing the Magic to score in the open floor on a night Miami allowed 26 fast-break points, most of which came in the first half.

More strategically speaking, Erik Spoelstra deployed a four-guard lineup in the last six minutes, with Goran Dragić, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington alongside Hassan Whiteside that went plus-12 in that stretch. Surrounding Dragić with shooters and a rolling big man is always a recipe for success as he scored 14 points in the fourth – Johnson added an incredible 22 in the third – while the Magic were taken out of their offensive rhythm by trying to take advantage of Richardson defending a bigger player in Aaron Gordon. Yes, this game followed the usual formula of Miami needing great defense and good shooting, but every season there are a handful of games that Spoelstra seems to seal with an unexpected look that takes the opposing team off guard.

Joe Beguiristain: Although the HEAT had a slow start to the contest, Tyler Johnson and Goran Dragić helped propel the team to victory in the second half. With Miami down double-digits in the third quarter, Johnson shifted momentum in a big way with 22 points on 10-of-11 shooting in the period. While that in and of itself was extremely impressive, how the 25-year-old got his looks was also encouraging. Not only did Johnson do his usual work off the ball with catch-and-shoots and timely cuts, but he also scored a bit in the pick-and-roll. Hopefully that is something the Fresno State product can continue to develop as the season wears on.

Dragić, meanwhile, hit big shot after big shot in the fourth en-route to a 14-point quarter. The Slovenian has struggled a bit with his shot since returning from injury, so it was good to see him get back to his usual self. We’ll see if Dragić can carry that over into Wednesday night and beyond. 

2: What did we learn from the first matchup with Detroit?

Couper: Considering the loss at Detroit came at the tail end of a six-game road trip that essentially kicked off the season, this certainly wasn’t a poor game by Miami’s standards. The Pistons simply enjoyed great shooting from Tobias Harris and then pulled away down the stretch behind great bench play as Ish Smith and Luke Kennard combined for 25 points on 18 shots and Anthony Tolliver shot 3-of-3 from downtown. Even with the injuries of the moment, Miami’s bench play has significantly improved since then.

This game did highlight, again, how different Detroit is to defend these days. Stan Van Gundy was one of the coaches who popularized the spread pick-and-roll – remember the Dwight Howard Magic teams – but he’s shifted the Pistons’ offense to lead the league in handoffs per 100 possessions, running more handoffs per game than the Golden State Warriors run pick-and-rolls. As such, defending Detroit is much less about managing spot-up shooters and more about defending movement from all spots on the floor. Sure, they’re only ranked No. 18 in offense this season but they were No. 25 last season, which makes a big difference when you’re able to sustain Top 10 level defense.

Joe: We learned that the Pistons are pretty solid on both ends of the floor. In addition to holding Miami to 43.3 percent shooting in that last matchup, Detroit also had five guys score in double-figures. More specifically, Avery Bradley and Luke Kennard hit some big shots late to ensure the win for the Pistons. Now, Bradley has missed the last seven games due to a right groin strain, but he’s currently listed as probable for Wednesday night. Jackson, on the other hand, is out with a right ankle sprain.

Even with those injuries, Detroit has won five of its last seven thanks to a top-five defense during that span. On the flip side of the ball, things have also gone pretty well. For the season, the Pistons lead the league with 112.9 off-ball screens per 100 possessions in addition to the handoffs that Coup mentioned above. Long story short, Detroit is a team that can beat you in a multitude of different ways.

3: How does the Pistons’ approach change without Reggie Jackson available?

Couper: It doesn’t really, though they run a few more handoffs when Jackson is off the floor than when he’s on it. Ish Smith is one of the most unique, due to his blinding speed, and capable backup guards in the league so while Detroit certainly misses Jackson’s talent the offensive structure doesn’t miss too many beats while Dwight Buycks slides into the backup role. And with Reggie Bullock solidifying himself a spot in the rotation, the Pistons beat a fully healthy San Antonio Spurs team by 14 points on Dec. 30.

We don’t yet know, as of this writing, whether or not Avery Bradley will be playing Wednesday night, but that’s obviously a big deal for Detroit either way.

Joe: As Coup mentioned above, it doesn’t change too much since Ish Smith has a lot of experience under his belt. Although Jackson is much more efficient in the pick-and-roll, Smith brings the same type of aggression when attacking the rim. That has manifested itself into an impressive five-game stretch for Smith, as he’s averaged 14.6 points and 4.0 assists on 51.6 percent shooting over that period.

Of course, Smith was in this same situation last year when Jackson missed the first 21 games of the season. As such, it shouldn’t be surprising that the 29-year-old has made a seamless transition into the starting lineup during the past two games.

INJURY UPDATE: James Johnson (ankle) went through Wednesday morning’s team shootaround and is a game-time decision.




Nov. 12 – HEAT at Pistons

March 28 – HEAT at Pistons

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT have won two of three and are 19-17.
  • The Pistons have won three of four and enter the contest at 20-15.
  • Hassan Whiteside leads Miami in rebounds (12.2) and blocks (1.4) per game.
  • Tobias Harris leads Detroit in scoring at 18.0 points per contest.


Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 103.0 (24)
  • HEAT Defense: 105.0 (13)
  • Pistons Offense: 104.1 (18)
  • Pistons Defense: 103.9 (8)

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