Tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST, the Pistons will be taking their talents to Miami to play against a suddenly hot Heat team. The Pistons are coming off a very long break after losing to the Kings, the Heat are on the 2nd night of a back to back after beating the Bulls last night.
The Heat are not all that good, but they are well coached and play their tails off every night. It is not clear if Hassan Whiteside will play tonight, he has cooled off a bit after an amazing start, but he is still a terrifying rim protecter and can rebound and even score for himself a bit while also being one of the few dudes in the NBA who can straight up go toe to toe with Andre in terms of pure athletic gifts. Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, and Josh McRoberts are all hurt. Tyler Johnson might or might not play tonight, he comes off the bench and is just a really nice swiss army knife sort of wing. With all the injuries, Goran Dragic is rather firmly leading the team at this point, averaging 19.6 points and 6.5 assists per game, and doing it pretty efficiently as well as being a solid defensive player. Dion Waiters has been the player he has always thought he was for at least the last few games but is very likely to return to being bad sooner rather than later. Beyond those two right now, it is very thin. Willie Reed is a center, Rodney McGruder is a shooting guard who is a rookie, James Johnson is a sort of fun small ball center who is like a homeless man's Draymond Green, Luke Babbitt can shoot and do other white guy things, Wayne Ellington is a guard who can shoot a bit, Udonis Haslem is old. If the questionable guys are all hurt tonight, then 4 of the Heat's top 6 minutes guys for the season would be out. And yet they have won 6 games in a row, so who knows.
Matchups to watch:
Andre vs. Whiteside (if Whiteside plays): Both are big athletic centers, both are excellent rebounders. Andre has pretty well outplayed Whiteside in past meetings but it could always change. Also, if Whiteside plays I would expect him to get some heavy usage given that he will be fresher than the rest of the team since he didn't play last night.
Pistons vs. Containing Dragic: If all the injuries continue tonight, then the Heat pretty much have to contain Dragic as he is the only consistent source of good offense for the Heat. That starts with Reggie Jackson/KCP and goes onto everyone else as they help over. Dragic is very good, but probably not good enough to keep as large a load as he has right now for too long.
Dion Waiters vs. Irrational confidence: He has played awesome the last few games. Hopefully that was a blip that is now gone, because if he is hitting some of the shots he's hit the last few nights then he is almost ungaurdable.
Pistons vs. Playing hard: The Pistons are fresher and healthier than the Heat are, but the Heat will still play very hard every minute of the game. The Pistons have no excuse to not match them stride for stride as far as effort goes.
Regression to the mean: The Pistons have had a lot of outliers this season as far as opponents 3 point shooting, and the last time they played the Heat they got a big difference early in the game. If the Heat don't do that again then the Pistons should be able to win from start to finish fairly comfortably.
KCP vs. Being healthy: He played last game, but I don't think he was all the way alright given that he air balled 2 three pointers. Given the extended rest of a few days off, if he is still leaving everything short it will be worthwhile to be at least a little worried.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
The Pistons are able to contain Dragic.
Dion Waiters is chucking away but is missing now.
Juwan Howard is suiting up because the Heat need another player.
Run for the hills if:
Whiteside and Johnson both play and are awesome because they are fresh.
The Pistons perimeter defense falls apart (yet again) and Dragic has a great game.
James Johnson is probably going to destroy Aron Baynes.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Andre Drummond has a really good game.
The Pistons wings all do awesome.
Whiteside does not play.
The Heat look spent and the Pistons look fresh and get a comfortable win.
What do you think? Can the Pistons play with energy? Is KCP ok?