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By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus
The Miami HEAT defeated the Detroit Pistons 97-96 Tuesday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Goran Dragić led the way for the HEAT with 28 points. Hassan Whiteside added 17 points for Miami, including the game winner. Click here for the full recap on HEAT.com.
By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Brian Sevald
The Miami HEAT face the Detroit Pistons Tuesday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The HEAT defeated the Pistons 116-103 in their last meeting on January 28. 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: What does Miami need to clean up from its loss to Boston?
Couper Moorhead: While many were likely frustrated by Miami’s offense due to some end-game possessions that were less than ideal, overall the HEAT still managed to score 106.3 points per 100 possessions – in large part thanks to Tyler Johnson and James Johnson relentlessly attacking the rim. That might not be best-in-the-league quality, but it’s more than enough to get a road win if the defense is up to the usual standards. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Isaiah Thomas was his usual brilliant self in the pick-and-roll, making the decision to have a big man either play up or back in pick-and-rolls a no-win situation, but just about every Celtic made an offensive impact in some form or fashion whether it was Jae Crowder hitting threes, Amir Johnson finishing around the rim or Kelly Olynyk and Jaylen Brown making timely drives to the rim. As we’ve said often, Miami has a great ability to self-correct in a short amount of time, but if Detroit’s spread pick-and-roll is operating to its full extent then time won’t be in extended supply.
Joe Beguiristain: Miami’s defense wasn’t quite up to par against Boston on Sunday night. While Josh Richardson did a good job of defending Isaiah Thomas in the first half, the Celtics guard scored 20 points after halftime. As Coup stated above, Thomas did a lot of damage in the pick-and-roll and came through with some tough finishes at the rim. That said, Richardson certainly competed hard and laid it all on the line against one of the toughest covers in the league. It wasn’t just Thomas that gave the HEAT headaches however, as the rest of his teammates combined to shoot 52.5 percent on the night.
Despite its defensive struggles, Miami still had a chance to win the game in the end. The Brothers Johnson combined for 24 points in the fourth quarter, while Hassan Whiteside continued to battle through a right hand laceration and drilled two clutch free throws to make it a one-possession game with 11.5 seconds remaining. That kind of grit and resolve has become a hallmark of the HEAT this season. Regardless of the circumstances, you know they will fight from beginning to end and never give up.
2: What have we learned about the season series with Detroit so far?
Couper: That the Pistons, as inconsistent as they can be, have the capability to be one heck of an offensive team. Even in Detroit’s loss to Miami during the winning streak the Pistons managed 113.1 points per 100 with everyone in the starting lineup outside of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shooting over 50 percent and Tobias Harris contributing 7-of-11. Of course Detroit is also currently in a strange point of the season where they’ve lost seven of eight and have seen Ish Smith starting over Reggie Jackson for the last three, so there’s no telling what version of them shows up on Tuesday, but talent has never been an issue as all three games of this season series have shown.
Joe: We’ve learned that the Pistons are indeed a formidable opponent, as they lead the season series with Miami 2-1. Not to mention, Detroit has scored 110.1 points per 100 possessions against the HEAT this season.
Still, Miami got the best of the Pistons in the last meeting between the two on January 28. In what was a closely-contested high-scoring affair, Wayne Ellington proved to be the difference in the fourth quarter with nine points on 3-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc.
In terms of Tuesday night, the HEAT have to be wary of Detroit's pick-and-roll game with Andre Drummond and Ish Smith. Despite Drummond’s recent struggles on the offensive end, the big fella is still a threat when rolling to the rim or crashing the offensive glass for second-chance opportunities.
3: What does this game mean in the playoff picture?
Couper: Only that this is probably the biggest game of the season. The HEAT currently sit at No. 8 only two games behind what is a three-way tie for No. 5, but they’re also only a half game up on Chicago and 1.5 games up on Detroit. This also happens to be the final contest in a four-game series that Detroit leads 2-1, so if Miami wins, the tiebreaker for playoff seeding goes to conference record (where Miami is ahead by three in the loss column). If Miami loses, the tiebreaker stays with Detroit. Essentially, a win or a loss doesn’t decide the team’s fate either way, but a win keeps the hounds at bay and creates a little separation while a loss, with the tiebreaker factored in, could almost count as two losses.
Joe: It means a lot. With the Pistons losing on Monday night, Miami is now 1.5 games ahead of Detroit for the eighth seed in the East. Like I stated before, the Pistons are ahead in the season series, so that makes this game even more important. While it’s easy to get caught up in the standings with seven teams jockeying for the final four playoff spots, it all comes down to what you can control. For the HEAT, that means locking in and focusing on each of the last nine games of the season. Of course, that kind of approach has always been synonymous with this franchise. With all these meaningful games down the stretch, we should be in for a wild ride over the last two and a half weeks of the season.
January 28-Pistons at HEAT
January 1-Pistons at HEAT
The HEAT have dropped three of four and are 35-38. The Pistons have dropped seven of eight and are 34-40. Tyler Johnson is averaging 17.8 points and 2.0 steals per game on 53.0 percent shooting over his last five. Tobias Harris leads Detroit in scoring at 16.2 points per contest.
HEAT Offense: 104.9 (18) HEAT Defense: 104.1 (5) Pistons Offense: 103.2 (25) Pistons Defense: 105.5 (12)
By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
At 1:00 PM ET, I will ask a trivia question in this thread to give away one Willie Reed signed photo. A multi-part question will be asked and the first eligible person who responds correctly will be declared the winner. Please note that you must live in the U.S. since your prize will be mailed to you.
READ the full rules to make sure you’re eligible: http://www.nba.com/heat/miami-heat-inferno-trivia-contest-official-rules-march-28-2017-willie-reed-signed-photo
By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Steve Babineau
The Miami HEAT face the Boston Celtics Sunday night at TD Garden. The HEAT fell to the Celtics 117-114 in their last meeting on December 30. Tip-off is set for 6:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 5:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What can Miami clean up from their loss to Toronto?
Couper Moorhead: This was an interesting game in that there was nothing hugely obvious that Miami was doing wrong as DeMar DeRozan put up 40 points. DeRozan was simply backing down defenders or taking them off the dribble from the perimeter and hitting one difficult mid-range jumper after another. That’s his game in general, but in this case it seemed the shots were well enough contested that DeRozan was having to put extra arc on his shot just so they wouldn’t get blocked. And they all went in anyway.
The bigger issue was what happened when DeRozan was on the bench. As well as Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters (who remains out) have played this season, throughout Miami’s most successful stretch of the season it was often their bench extending or gaining a lead that eventually led them to victory. With the Raptors, Delon Wright and Norman Powell (27 points combined) were simply getting to the rim too often to allow for Miami’s bench to find a similar level of success – especially with the offense a little stagnant after Toronto found a higher defensive gear.
Joe Beguiristain: The main thing Miami can clean up from Thursday night is its offensive flow. While DeMar DeRozan scored 40 points against the HEAT, most of his shots were contested well by either Rodney McGruder or Josh Richardson. Sometimes when a guy is hot, you just have to live with the results.
However, once the Raptors went up by double-digits early on in the fourth quarter, Miami couldn’t quite narrow the gap. Outside of Richardson and Tyler Johnson, things were tough offensively in the final period. With Dion Waiters out, Goran Dragić did all he could with a team-high seven assists on the night, but it wasn’t quite enough in the end. While the HEAT as a whole certainly miss Waiters’ ability to get into the paint, draw the defense and make life much easier for his teammates, the team has guys on the roster that can help Dragić with that task. Of them, Richardson has the most promise, but McGruder has really shown some improvement in that area. After dishing out four assists against Phoenix, he followed that up with three more versus Toronto. Of course it’s a small sample size, but the progress is still impressive.
2: After the last performance Isaiah Thomas put up against the HEAT, how can he be better stopped, or at least slowed?
Couper: As Erik Spoelstra pointed out at practice on Saturday, there’s not a ton you actually can do when a player is playing so expertly out of the pick-and-roll as Thomas did in December and Damian Lillard did just this week. The HEAT want to fight over the top of pick-and-rolls and keep the offensive player as uncomfortable and constrained as possible. But Thomas and Lillard can pull up, and make, threes so quickly that there’s very little you can do beyond asking your big man to play much higher up on the pick and contest the shot, at which point that same big man is essentially trying to defend an elite ballhandler in space. You can also trap the ballhandler and just not allow him to get anywhere, but then you’re putting the team in rotation and opening up passing lanes elsewhere – remember Lillard started hitting Jusuf Nurkic in the middle of the floor down the stretch against Portland.
So, the answer is less strategic and more execution. You have to fight over all those screens, the big man has to expertly manage that in-between space while the guard gets over and you have to have active hands to cut off any easy passes.
Joe: Thomas is one of the toughest covers in the league thanks to his ability to shoot from 25-plus feet out and also get to the rim with relative ease. As such, he’s ranked second among all players with 1.03 points per possession as the pick-and-roll ball handler (minimum of 150 possessions). To slow Thomas down, Miami has to do its best to stay in front of him and make him work for every look. Obviously, that means both the guard and big have to be on the same page when defending Thomas in the pick-and-roll. Dragić echoed that sentiment after practice on Saturday and stated that the HEAT can manage as long as they play team defense. Luckily enough, Hassan Whiteside and Willie Reed have improved on contesting outside shots, while James Johnson can pretty much do it all on the defensive end. We’ll see how Miami defends it this time around.
3: How will this game affect the playoff picture?
Couper: Miami still sits at No. 8 thanks to losses from both Chicago and Detroit, but they’re only 1.5 games up and every conference game takes on an added importance because of the current situation with the Pistons. Even if Miami wins at Detroit on Tuesday in what is one of the bigger games of the year, that season series will only be tied 2-2 which means the tiebreaker will come down to conference record. The HEAT are three losses ahead on that end, but Miami has a ton of in-conference games left to play so there’s still movement on that end.
The best news is that Miami controls its own destiny.
Joe: From here on out, every game for the HEAT has significance in the playoff race. Case in point: seeds five through ten in the East are separated by just 3.5 games. The HEAT are currently the eighth seed at 35-37, but they’re just two games back of fifth-seed Atlanta and sixth-seed Milwaukee (both are 37-35). Boston, meanwhile, is fighting for that No. 1 spot since it's just a half game behind Cleveland. In short, it should feel like a playoff game at TD Garden on Sunday night.
December 30-HEAT at Celtics
December 18-Celtics at HEAT
The HEAT have won three of five and are 35-37. The Celtics have won six of seven and stand at 47-26. Hassan Whiteside leads Miami in rebounds (14.2) and blocks (2.1) per game. Isaiah Thomas leads Boston in points (29.1) and assists (6.0) per contest.
HEAT Offense: 104.8 (18) HEAT Defense: 104.0 (5) Celtics Offense: 108.4 (8) Celtics Defense: 105.3 (11)