Tomorrow (Tuesday) night the Pistons will be in Miami to play the heat at 7:30pm EST. The heat are 16-10 and are coming off of a single days rest. The Pistons have not played since their 4OT Viking Epic on Friday. (which is the longest break the Pistons have had between games all season btw) As such both teams figure to be fairly fresh.
Previously against the Heat.(The Pistons slaughtered them.)
The Them: The Heat are still holding on as one of the better team's in the Eastern conference as far as record goes, and their stats back up their very solid record. Their 98.2 DefRtg. is good for 5th in the NBA, and their OffRtg. is a very solid 102.5. Combine those together for a net rating of 4.2 and they have the 6th best net rating in the NBA. Last time the Pistons played the Heat I wondered if they would be able to keep up their solid start. And while I still am a little doubtful, it now has to do with them staying healthy. They have prety well proven now that if this team can stay healthy, they are a very solid team. Dwyane Wade is still the best Heat player, averaging 18.5ppg on 46% from the field. And he scores those points in mostly a very pleasant flurry of post ups and floaters, if he had ever developed a 3 point shot then Wade would literally have the perfect old man game. Chris Bosh is still chugging along at 17.5ppg and is still a very solid and versatile defender. Goran Dragic is somehow making more money than Reggie Jackson (yeah shots fired. Fight me.) to score 11.3ppg and 5 assists, as well as really struggling with his shot from distance. (He has never been a great shooter but he is at 25.7% right now.) HOWEVA even with his not super impressive numbers, make no mistake, Dragic is still a very solid, and capable 2 way point guard. And when the Heat do find themselves with Bosh and Wade on the bench Dragic (often) will suddenly switch to the focal point of the offense and really look to score. In the middle the Hassan White side is still an absolute monster who is averaging an absurd 4.0 blocks per game. Luol Deng is also a very solid two way wing, even if he is not as good as he was in Chicago. On the bench Gerald Green can score in bunches and I hesitantly will say that he has actually looked somewhat competent on defense. (which is a big improvement for him) Justice Winslow remains as a solid defender for a rookie, but he does almost nothing on offense. And Beno Udrih is a perfectly capable backup PG. Overall this team sits at a similar spot that they were the last time the Pistons saw them. Their top 4 guys are all excellent players, and while they do not have a lot of depth, they do have several guys who are very solid players. They play excellent defense and their offense has improved as of late as well. And also, don't give the last game a lot of credence for what will happen here. NBA teams have bad nights, while I would say that the Pistons might be a good matchup for the Heat in various ways, this game will almost certainly not be as one sided as it was last time.
Matchups to watch:
- Whiteside vs. Drummond: Last time these two played it was pretty clear that Drummond was better. But it was very clear that Whiteside made a lot of mistakes, and that without those mistakes he could have absolutely hung with Drummond. Whiteside is also the sort of cocky that he probably is angry about how the last game went, which combined with a good coaching staff/organization that the Heat have, would make me think he will be a little bit more locked in this time around. I do think that Drummond is better than Whiteside, and he might just be enough better than Whiteside that Drummond will win the matchup these two have with regularity just because he is better. But Whiteside is probably the only guy (along with Rudy Gobert) who has the length and athleticism to really give Drummond trouble. So I am not going to just assume that Andre's strength advantage is too much for Whiteside. Either way, these are both fun players to watch so it will be a good matchup.
- KCP vs Defeding Wade: Last time Wade literally had one of the worst games of his career. Even if KCP had a lot to do with that, it won't be happening again. And once again, Wade is a prideful enough player that it would not surprise me to see him really come out swinging. And despite the last meeting's result, Wade against KCP still worries me. Wade is the sort of big and strong player that figures to be able to give KCP some troubles. Either way we will find out if it was mostly a fluke or if KCP really is that good. If KCP can cause Wade to have a crappy game again then this game could end up being fairly one sided again, but I would be surprised if that happened.
- Pistons vs. Guarding Bosh: Chris Bosh, like Wade, had a miserable game the last time these two teams played. Once again, I would be surprised if that happened again. The Pistons have done better at guarding forward scorers lately, but it is still a weakness. And I was hugely surprised that the Heat did not feed Bosh last time against Ersan. The issue is that the Heat (seem) to be more comfortable with feeding Bosh for sections of the game when he has a mismatch as of late. In just their last game against the Blazers there was a stretch where Bosh scored (I believe) 11 straight points of something like that. (and ended up with 29) He might have another bad game, the Pistons have schemed better for guys like him lately, but on paper it still figures to be an issue.
- Dragic vs. Jackson: Dragic is not as important for the Heat as Jackson is for the Pistons, but he is still important. Both are very good players, and also play a pretty fun brand of basketball. And the reality is that Reggie pretty thoroughly dominated Dragic last game. (If you remember Dragic got most of his numbers in a section in the first half where the Heat re-inserted him into the game when Steve Blake came on.)
- Jennings?: Brandon Jennings looked very solid in his rehab start in Grand Rapids (if a wee bit rusty) and has said that he will play "if coach wants me too." SVG has said that he thinks Blake will play still for a bit, which is something that should not worry people. SVG does not want to rush Jennings back. But the reality is, that we all would like to see Jennings play a little bit. And the reality is that even if SVG wants to give a little more time before Jennings takes the full reigns as backup PG/6th man. That is because he wants to ease Jennings in. Which means he figures to get a little bit of time here or there. So even if it ends up only being a few minutes and does not have any real impact on the game. It will still be good/interesting to see. (If he does not play that would be equally as interesting)
So in conclusion.
Cackle with knowing glee if:
Andre is actually just a lot better than Whiteside.
KCP has got Wade's number.
Dragic really struggles to stop Jackson/get anything going himself against Jackson.
Jennings comes on and scores 50 points.
Run for the hills if:
Wade is pissed and KCP can't stop him.
The Heat are feeding Bosh the ball.
Gerald Green has a random awesome night scoring.
Jennings plays a bit and looks absolutely terrible.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Whiteside does better, but Andre is just plain better.
KCP keeps Wade from going off.
Bosh scores 30 points.
Jennings plays for a 5 minute stretch in the first half alongside Blake, and makes 2 really nice plays.
The Pistons win the game on the back of Reggie Jackson following up his player of the week with a strong performance.
The Heat are a good team. The Pistons are a good team. And there will be several good players going up against each other. Should be a fun game. Also a side thing, last time Jackson won player of the week he laid a dud. Hopefully that does not happen again.