Pistons put up a fight but can’t finish off holiday weekend sweep in Miami
Isaac Baldizon (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Monday night’s 113-107 loss to the Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena
FAST START, TOUGH FINISH – Dwane Casey opened training camp in early December by telling his team to expect the unexpected in the NBA’s COVID-19 season. The latest chapter of that story came on Martin Luther King Jr. Day when the Pistons’ scheduled matinee was pushed to an 8 p.m. tipoff in a nod to testing concerns for Miami, which twice last week played games with the minimum number of eight available players. The schedule tumult didn’t appear to have an impact on the Pistons early as they went on a 12-0 after Miami scored the game’s first basket. They led 25-9 just past the midway point of the first quarter whet Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had to call his second timeout. The Pistons extended their lead to 32-13 eight minutes into the game before a 9-0 Miami run. After that, offense was a struggle. The Pistons shot 65 percent and hit 5 of 10 from the 3-point arc in their 36-point first quarter, but finished the game shooting 46 percent and 35 percent from the 3-point line. Miami opened its lead to 12 points early in the fourth quarter, but the Pistons pulled within three with less than two minutes to play and had the ball with a chance to tie but suffered a turnover. Jerami Grant again led the Pistons with 27 points, his 12th consecutive game of scoring 20 or more points.
RETURN OF SVI – Dwane Casey didn’t appear inclined to tinker with his rotation after Saturday’s impressive 20-point win, but when Miami whittled its 19-point deficit to six early in the second quarter he made a move to Svi Mykhailiuk off the bench after Mykhailiuk didn’t enter Saturday’s win until the last two minutes with the game in hand. Mykhailiuk played five first-half minutes, cutting into the time of rookie Saddiq Bey. Bey threw an ill-advised pass in the first minute of the second quarter, one of two turnovers the Pistons committed on consecutive possessions that resulted in Miami transition 3-point baskets to halve a 12-point deficit. Bey didn’t play in the second half. Mykhailiuk didn’t score in his 13 minutes, but he made his mark in an outing that likely helps his case for staying in the rotation. He drew a charge against Miami’s Kelly Olynyk, gave up an open 3-pointer to find Wayne Ellington for a better shot and drove the lane with the shot clock under five before dumping to Mason Plumlee for a dunk, those two baskets on consecutive possessions cutting Miami’s 10-point lead in half in the fourth quarter. He finished with four rebounds, four assists and two steals. It was also the second straight game that Casey gave all backup center minutes to rookie Isaiah Stewart. Stewart, coming off his first career double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds) in Saturday’s win, was scoreless with two rebounds in 12 minutes.
GUNSLINGERS – Wayne Ellington has moved into the Pistons starting lineup largely because Dwane Casey knows exactly what he’s going to get from Ellington – a willing and able 3-point shooter who is bound to pull defenses to his side of the floor and open offensive opportunities for others. Miami’s Duncan Robinson does the same for the Heat. Ellington finished with a season-high 24 points, taking 11 of his 12 shots from the 3-point arc and hitting seven of them. His other points came on free throws when he was fouled while shooting a triple. Robinson, the former University of Michigan gunner who began his college career at Division III Williams, took all nine of his shots from the 3-point line and drained six of them. He hit perhaps the biggest basket of the game with five minutes to play. With the Pistons trailing by four, Jerami Grant threw a lob in transition that Mason Plumlee couldn’t quite corral and his dunk attempt rattled out. The miss fueled a Miami transition three that Robinson converted. Instead of a two-point Miami lead with a Plumlee dunk, it turned into a seven-point lead. It was Robinson’s transition triples off of Pistons turnovers on consecutive possessions to start the second quarter that pulled Miami within six.