Pistons seek to move closer to Heat
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MIAMI -- The Miami Heat got run out of their own building on Thursday night, but now they will get another chance in a game that is crucial to the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
The Heat (32-30), who currently hold the eighth and final playoff position in the East, play host to the Detroit Pistons (29-33), who sit in ninth place, three games behind Miami.
Miami was embarrassed in Thursday's 131-113 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Lakers, who shot 59.5 percent from the floor.
"We are much better than what we showed defensively," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "You could see it. (The Lakers) were playing with different pace and energy level. We were playing on our heels the whole way, particularly at the start of the game when they were running right by us.
"We're going to get to work (for Detroit). We have a big game against them on Saturday. We have to play toward our identity."
Look for a concerted defensive effort by the Heat against the Pistons, who lost to the Orlando Magic 115-106 in overtime on Friday night and will be playing on short rest.
But instead of a run-and-gun offense like the Lakers, the Pistons will try to pound the ball inside.
For starters, Detroit is without point guard Reggie Jackson, who leads the Pistons in assists and is averaging 14.6 points. Jackson is out until mid-March due to a sprained right ankle, and his absence gives Detroit even more faith that the way to win is by going inside first.
The Pistons are just 2-7 in their past nine games. But when they are playing well, what they do well is rebound and score in the paint.
Take, for example, Detroit's 110-87 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. The Pistons outrebounded Milwaukee 57-35 and outscored the Bucks in the paint 56-34. Detroit had 22 offensive rebounds in that game, including 15 in the first half.
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy -- formerly the coach of the Heat -- said the way his team cuts and drives to the basket frees big men such as Andre Drummond and Eric Moreland to grab offensive boards.
"Even if we are missing shots, bodies are off Andre and Eric, and they are both really good offensive rebounders when that happens," Van Gundy said.
Indeed, Drummond, a 6-foot-11, 280-pound center, is averaging 15.1 points and leads the NBA in overall rebounding (15.8). He also leads the NBA with 5.2 offensive rebounds per game.
Moreland and Blake Griffin, who are both 6-10 power forwards, add muscle inside for Detroit. Griffin is averaging 18.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists, showing he is a premier all-around talent. Moreland's numbers aren't as eye-catching since he only averages 11 minutes per game.
However, if you extrapolate his numbers over 36 minutes, Moreland would average 11.9 rebounds, including 3.6 on the offensive glass.
The Heat are in a similar situation as Detroit in that they are shorthanded in the backcourt. Starting shooting guard Tyler Johnson and his main backup all season, Wayne Ellington, missed the Lakers game due to leg injuries.
That has meant more playing time for Dwyane Wade, who has scored a total of 52 points the past two games. However, at age 36, it might be a bit much to ask Wade to provide that much offense for a third straight game.
Drummond will match up with 7-foot, 265-pound Heat center Hassan Whiteside, who is averaging 14.0 points and 11.8 rebounds, including 3.2 on the offensive glass.
Backup Heat center Bam Adebayo, a 6-10, 245-pound rookie, is averaging 7.4 points and 5.5 rebounds in 20.5 minutes. Over 36 minutes, Adebayo's averages would be 13.0 points and 9.6 rebounds.
All in all, Saturday's game should be quite a battle in the paint.
"It's huge," Heat wing Josh Richardson said. "Saturday is worth two games (in the standings). The Pistons are a good team. We have to come ready to work."
Updated March 2, 2018