Tonight the Pistons will be welcoming the Miami Heat to the Palace for a game at 7:30pm EST tonight. The Pistons are on one days rest after a loss to the Rockets on Monday, as are the Heat after losing to the 76ers on Monday.
The Heat are off to a rough start, they have several injuries and don't really have the depth to combat them. Their defense has been very solid but the offense has been pretty poor. Hassan Whiteside has fully come into his role as being the guy and done so wonderfully, averaging nearly 19 points and 16 rebounds per game, and still blocking tons of shots with 2.7 per game. He sometimes does not play terribly hard/smart but he is so good that he usually can get away with it, if he does keep up this play all year then even if they continue to struggle this year, the Heat could legitimately build a very good team around Whiteside. With Dwyane Wade gone, Goran Dragic has taken the full reigns of the offense, and the Heat are running a ton more which is his game. Dragic is scoring an efficient 16 points per game with almost 6 assists, although he has been turning the ball over a bit much. Dion Waiters is still alive and bricking away in Miami, he is off to an absolutely miserable start to the year shooting the ball, with a TS% of just 43%, which for reference, is Ish Smith territory. Justice Winslow is probably not playing due to injury, same with Willie Reed and Wayne Ellington. Which leaves the Heat very thin everywhere else, Luke Babbit can shoot and not much else, Josh Richardson has been struggling to get his footing after missing the beginning of the year to injury, Derrick Williams is a good athlete and is actually a decent guy off the bench. Tyler Johnson is a swiss army knife type, and he is playing very well, James Johnson is a good athlete and also a little bit crazy. I would give more information on who all is starting and who isn't but they have run out a lot of different looks this year.
Essentially this is a team that is being propped up by the combination of Hassan Whiteside's defense, and the excellent coaching of Erik Spoelstra, while Goran Dragic tries to desperately keep the offense afloat. As long as Whiteside and Dragic are playing, the Heat will not be scrubs, but until they get some more guys they will not be all that good.
Matchups to watch:
Andre vs. Whiteside: This is the matchup of the night and it should be super fun. They are both in a class of their own as the top rebounders in basketball (assuming Dwight Howard does not blow his previous career best out of the water) and they are both freak athletes. Hassan is longer than Andre, and Andre is bigger and quicker than Hassan. It is a really interesting matchup because both of these guys are so used to just being to out-athlete their opponents, but they can't do that against each other. Top off that they are both the best players on their respective teams and it should be a fun and important matchup.
KCP vs. Getting open and cashing in: KCP is likely to spend most of his time being guarded by Dion Waiters. Waiters is not a terrible defender, but he is not exactly super attentive off the ball. KCP is at his best offensively when he can lose guys off of screens to get open looks, and Waiters is a prime choice to get slaughtered by screens. As a side note, as long as Waiters doesn't have his random awesome game, KCP should totally own him on the other end.
Ish vs. Good vibes: Ish has managed a couple of pretty good games in a row, he can't go back in the tank. If he can just play well for like another week or so then the Pistons can get Reggie back in good shape. Ish will also have his work cut out for him defensively with Goran.
Pistons vs. Getting back on D: Dragic loves to push the ball in transition. The Heat don't actually play at too high a pace, but if the Pistons are lazy, Dragic will kill them with fastbreak points.
Bench vs. Being good: The Heat starters should be able to mostly hold serve against the Pistons, but with all of the injuries, the Heat bench guys should be fairly overmatched. The Pistons need the bench to show up tonight, because if they get outplayed it will hurt the Pistons in a big way.
Tobias vs. Getting back on track: I'm not sure exactly what the deal was with him only playing 20 minutes in the last game, but I don't like that at all. Hopefully Tobias can come out this game and kill it.
Pistons vs. Not falling too far back: If the Pistons win this game, they are at 7-9 with Reggie coming back in (hopefully) about a week. If they lose they drop to 6-10 with the Clippers coming up next. This is an important game for the Pistons to win.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Andre is out working Hassan on both ends and gets Hassan out of the game early. (This happened last year)
KCP is getting WIDE open consistently.
The Pistons bench mob goes on a 15-0 run.
Run for the hills if:
Hassan is outworking Andre and gets him out of the game early.
Goran Dragic is getting easy points in transition.
Dion Waiters starts hitting absurd shots.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Andre and Hassan both have 20/20 games.
KCP scores 20 points.
The Pistons bench slaughters the Heat bench.
Pistons outplay the Heat by most every standard and get a comfortable win.
What do you think? Can the Pistons get back on track? With behemoth will win the battle tonight?