Too much Wade as Pistons see 4-game win streak snapped, playoff shot dwindle
Issac Baldizon (NBAE/Getty)
MIAMI – The common element to the four-game winning streak that had given the Pistons renewed hope they could yet make a playoff push was having three outstanding performances. The usual three: Reggie Jackson, Andre Drummond and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the pillars of their future, while Greg Monroe misses time with a knee injury. But on Friday night in Orlando, the third wheel was Tayshaun Prince, who scored 23 as the Pistons won going away.
Jackson and Drummond were again superb Sunday night, but nobody could elevate their game to a plane anywhere near their universe. Jackson and Drummond scored a combined 63 points and required just 34 total shots to get there. The rest of the team: 39 points on 49 shots.
"The only two guys who played well for us offensively were Reggie and Andre," Stan Van Gundy said after the game. "So (Dwyane) Wade and (Udonis) Haslem played great for them. We had two guys play real well, but they got more help. We didn't get a whole lot of help for those two guys."
The only Piston besides Jackson and Drummond in double figures was Jodie Meeks with 11 points – more than half of them coming on 3-point baskets less than a minute apart on consecutive possessions late in the third quarter when the Pistons chopped a 17-point deficit down to four with a 13-0 run.
The bench hit 2 of 17 shots in the first half and Van Gundy responded by playing Drummond and Caldwell-Pope for the entire second half and Jackson for all but the first four minutes of the fourth quarter.
"I didn't think our bench was giving us much, really, at either end," he said. "That was my choice. I thought Andre and KCP could handle the minutes. KCP didn't have a good night – maybe overplaying him. That's a problem. I didn't think I overplayed Andre and never saw a time I thought his energy really dropped. But KCP, I think it might have been one of the reasons that he's 8 for 35 on this trip. We haven't given him much rest. We're going to have to take a look at that."
Other than Drummond and Jackson, the Pistons got just 16 points from their three other starters. Caldwell-Pope scored nine, hitting 4 of 15 shots. Anthony Tolliver scored seven, just two in the second half. And Caron Butler went scoreless, taking only one shot and finishing without a rebound in 17 minutes.
Just a little more punch from anywhere and the terrific nights for Jackson and Drummond would have been rewarded with a fifth straight win. Drummond's career-high 32 points came on 14 of 17 shooting. He added two blocked shots and two assists, highlighted by responding to a double team – a rare happening, but a sign of just how vexing he was for Miami – by finding Tayshaun Prince for an open triple that pulled the Pistons within seven with 3:36 to play.
Jackson again did the bulk of his damage after halftime, scoring 17 of his 31 points, dishing out eight of his nine assists and grabbing all six of his rebounds in the second half. But he was hard on himself for what he saw as some late defensive lapses with the Pistons scoring at will but having trouble slowing Miami.
"They really beat us with a lot of back cuts," Jackson said. "Even though we got back in the game, everybody was doing a great job of competing and Dre was doing a great job of calling coverages, I got mixed up with the coverages. I played poor down the stretch on the defensive end. We got behind early, but we still made a surge late and about three straight times I messed up defensive coverages and I think it really hurt us."
What hurt worse were Miami's early offensive rebounding and the turn-back-the-clock brilliance of Haslem and Wade. Haslem's five first-quarter offensive rebounds allowed Miami to find some equilibrium after the Pistons piled up 25 points in the game's first nine minutes. The assault on the backboards by the league's worst rebounding team – further encumbered by the injury absences of Hassan Whiteside and Chris Andersen – threw the Pistons out of their early rhythm. They sputtered to just 19 points in the final 15 minutes of the half.
"They really beat us up off the glass tonight," Jackson said.
"The most disappointing thing was getting our butts kicked on the boards by a smaller team," Van Gundy said. "Shouldn't have happened. Haslem – seven offensive rebounds. That shouldn't happen, as well."
Once Miami thrust itself back in the game, Wade carried the Heat from there. Questionable to play after having his knee drained Saturday night, Wade finished with 40 points – 21 in the fourth quarter. It was his tough 14-foot turnaround, fading into the Pistons bench, that snapped the 13-0 run. He followed with a driving layup and a contested jump shot and finished the Pistons off by hitting 11 of 11 from the line in the fourth quarter.
"He knew he had to carry the load offensively for them today and we knew that, too," Meeks said. "He was just good tonight. You've got to tip your hat to them."
Jackson and Van Gundy were asked if Wade's outburst surprised them.
"No – it's Dwyane Wade," Jackson said. "Everybody knows he's a great player – one of the greatest to ever play this game. You don't last that long and still be that dominant without picking your spots. Some people get paid to score and he's one of them."
"Wade's a great player," said Van Gundy, who was a rookie coach when Wade broke into the NBA and battled him as Orlando's head coach. "I've been in here before and I've had Wade have 50 against us and we've won, so you can't just look at that number. To me, the rebounding is really the big difference and the number of layups we gave up. He's a Hall of Famer. He's going to make some of those shots, but you've got to rebound the ones he misses and you can't give up layups. Those kinds of things are the things that beat you. We had two guys out there they couldn't stop, either, so it comes down to a lot of other things."
And other than Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond, the Pistons didn't have a lot of other things go their way this time around.