Too much Wade as Pistons see 4-game win streak snapped, playoff shot dwindle

Andre Drummond's big game – a career-high 32 points and 14 rebounds – wasn't enough as the Pistons saw their four-game winning streak snapped at Miami
Issac Baldizon (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

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.

FAST BREAKDOWN

Three quick observations from Sunday night's 109-102 loss to the Miami Heat

SLAM DUNK – The Pistons looked dead on their feet, trailing by 17 with four minutes left in the third quarter, when they closed the quarter on an 11-0 run fueled by two Jodie Meeks 3-point shots. They extended the run to 13 to get within four early in the fourth quarter. But Dwyane Wade, who was a game-time decision after having fluid drained from his knee on Saturday night, looked like the guy who was an MVP-caliber player a half-decade ago in dealing the Pistons' dwindling playoff chances another crippling blow. Wade ended the 13-0 run with a tough step-back jump shot and then shot the Pistons bench a glare. He followed up with scores on each of the next two Miami trips, scoring 19 of his game-high 40 points in the fourth quarter. The Pistons got big games from Reggie Jackson (31 points on 12 of 17 shooting, six rebounds and nine assists) and Andre Drummond (a career-high 32 points on 14 of 17 shooting plus 14 boards) but not enough from everywhere else in seeing their four-game winning streak snapped. Their lack of depth with injuries to Greg Monroe and Brandon Jennings was especially apparent in the first half, when the bench his 2 of 17 shots. Van Gundy cut the rotation drastically after halftime, with Drummond and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope playing the entire half and Jackson taking just a brief rest to start the fourth quarter.

FREE THROW – The Pistons had been playing very efficient offensively during their four-game winning streak entering Sunday's game at Miami, averaging 107.8 points, and they got off and running on a similar pace. Better even, with 25 points just nine minutes into the game and leading by eight against a Miami team missing big men Hassan Whiteside and Chris Andersen. But even despite that handicap, Miami managed to turn the game on its ear in a most unlikely way – offensive rebounding. The Heat, last in the league in rebounding, grabbed nine in the first quarter alone – the only thing that allowed them to prevent an early double-digits deficit. From there, Miami's offense picked up just enough to allow the Heat's stingy defense to settle in. The Pistons scored just two points in the last three minutes of the first quarter and only 19 in the final 15 minutes of the first half. Miami outrebounded the Pistons 46-37.

3-POINTER – The Pistons have precious little margin for error – maybe none – but they especially could ill afford this loss to Miami. Of their 10 remaining games going into Sunday's, six of them – including this one – come against teams directly ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings: Miami, Charlotte (twice), Boston and Indiana remain. That gives the Pistons the chance to not only put a much-needed notch in their win column, but hand losses to the teams trying to stay a step ahead of them. If there was any bright spot, the Heat are the likeliest team to take the No. 7 seed, leaving the eighth seed up for grabs. The Pistons are really going to need to win the four games against the Bobcats, Celtics and Pacers, three of them at The Palace. The Pistons went into Sunday's game four games out of the playoff chase. The Pistons, of course, were hamstrung by two horrendous stretches – the 5-23 start to the season and the 2-10 stretch, including a 10-game losing streak, after the trade-deadline deals shook up their rotation and disrupted their chemistry. The Pistons went 18-10 between those two stretches and have gone 5-2 since snapping the 10-game streak. It bodes well for next season, but dug a hole that threatens to swallow their 2014-15 season.

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