Miami HEAT at Detroit Pistons Game Preview

Photo Credit: Brian Sevald

The Miami HEAT face the Detroit Pistons Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena. The HEAT defeated the Pistons 111-104 in their last meeting on Jan. 3. Tip-off is set for 7:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 6:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: Despite the HEAT falling behind by a sizeable margin, what did you like about their near-comeback in Philadelphia?

Couper Moorhead: The game was seemingly over with Miami trailing by 28 points in the final period but with a lineup comprised mostly of bench players the HEAT rallied to close within four in the final minute. Yes, the 76ers stopped playing their regular lineups before re-inserting their starters and the comeback was so gradual, with the HEAT starting off hitting a number of tough looks, that it seemed to creep up on just about everyone in the building before it began to snowball. But even with that said it’s the type of late-game effort we’ve seen time and time again over the past two seasons as the HEAT, no matter the deficit, find a mix of players late in the game that keep playing hard to take advantage of exactly the type of circumstances we just mentioned.

In the end the HEAT fell short all the same, but the lasting memory will be of Bam Adebayo posting 15 points, 13 rebounds and six assists with no turnovers – making him the first under-21 player, ever, to post at least those numbers. Miami’s offense might help out those assists with all the handoffs they run but when Adebayo is putting out cutters with split-second reads you know it’s more about his talent than anything else. He’s still just scratching the surface.

Joe Beguiristain: Two words: Bam Adebayo.

250x300-Bam-180203.jpgAlthough Kelly Olynyk and Justise Winslow played a major role in Miami’s 30-7 run in the fourth quarter, Adebayo really stood out. Whether he was showing improved touch on hook shots, throwing down yet another jam or making good reads and spraying out passes to his teammates, the rookie did it all in the fourth. As such, the 20-year-old scored 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting, grabbed four rebounds and dished out three assists in the final period. Of course, Adebayo also played stout defense on Joel Embiid for most of the night. Simply put, it was one heck of an effort by the former Kentucky Wildcat.

All in all, it was great to see the HEAT fight back and never give up. While that’s nothing new at this point, cutting a 28-point deficit down to four in less than a quarter and giving yourself a chance to win after all that adversity is a whole different animal.

Or maybe it’s just the culture.

2: How has Detroit’s recent big trade changed the complexion of their team?

Couper: The biggest trade of the season happened just last week when the Los Angeles Clippers moved Blake Griffin to the Pistons in exchange for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris and Boban Marjanovic, giving Detroit one of the best frontcourts in the entire league in what could be a franchise-altering move. Many probably still think of Griffin as the dunk-heavy player he came into the league as but he’s incredibly skilled, capable of running offense, stepping out to three and scoring off the dribble, making him an ideal compliment to the power of Andre Drummond. 

Detroit had to give up a good amount of their depth to make the deal, however. Both Bradley and Harris were regular starters and among the best shooters on the team, so without them the Pistons are starting Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson. Bullock, along with Anthony Tolliver and Luke Kennard off the bench, still offer plenty of spacing but there’s no question that Detroit’s wings all have a major opportunity ahead of them.

Joe: While the Pistons traded away their two leading scorers for Blake Griffin, sometimes you need to make tough decisions in order to acquire a superstar. As Coup alluded to above, Griffin can do so much with the ball in his hands that he should really bolster Detroit’s bottom-third ranked offense. Case in point: the Clippers scored 108.5 points per 100 possessions when the dynamic power forward was on the floor this season.

250x300-Blake-180203.jpgThat kind of production carried over right away to Motown on Thursday night, as Griffin scored 24 points on 6-of-12 shooting, grabbed 10 boards and dished out five assists in his Pistons debut against the Grizzlies. Above all else, the 28-year-old initiated offense, attacked off the dribble and set up his teammates quite well.

Just imagine what things will look like after he gets some more games under his belt.

3: What have we learned about this matchup so far this season?

Couper: We know Detroit is more than capable of defending as they’ve hovered around the Top 10 defenses all season long, but with the trade and Reggie Jackson still being out of the lineup there’s not a ton to glean from the last couple of games – each of which came down to which team happened to be shooting better that night.

It’s worth watching what sort of defense Stan Van Gundy asks Griffin to play. In Miami’s win on January 3 it was Tolliver, at times playing center (Drummond did not play), outright blitzing Miami’s ballhandlers in pick-and-roll which led to a number of open threes. Is Griffin going to be asked to be similarly aggressive, even if selectively to conserve his energy?

Joe: We’ve learned that the Pistons are a tough team that will bring it no matter what. And with Stan Van Gundy at the helm, that really shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Otherwise though, it’s hard to apply anything from those previous two matchups this season since Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley are now with the Clippers.  

That said, one thing I’ll be looking out for is the chemistry between Griffin and Andre Drummond. Griffin played with a similar player in DeAndre Jordan for years in Los Angeles, so it should continue to be a seamless transition like Thursday was.

As such, I’m excited to see how Hassan Whiteside (if he plays after exiting Friday night's game with an illness), Adebayo, James Johnson, Olynyk and Winslow approach the matchup. Whiteside has had some fun battles with Drummond in the past, while Adebayo is coming off one of his best games of the season. Johnson, Olynyk and Winslow, meanwhile, certainly have the toughness needed to hang with a guy that attacks the basket as much as Griffin does.

We’ll see how it all plays out.

INJURY UPDATE: Whiteside (illness) has been ruled out of Saturday night's game.

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Highlights:

Jan. 3 – Pistons at HEAT

Nov. 12 – HEAT at Pistons

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT have dropped two straight and are 29-23 on the year.
  • The Pistons have won two in a row and enter the contest at 24-26.
  • Justise Winslow (6.8) and Bam Adebayo (6.0) have the highest net ratings on the team over the past three games.
  • Blake Griffin scored 24 points on 6-of-12 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out five assists in his Detroit debut on Thursday against the Grizzlies.

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 102.8 (26)
  • HEAT Defense: 103.9 (7)
  • Pistons Offense: 104.2 (21)
  • Pistons Defense: 104.9 (11)

 

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