Tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST the Pistons will essentially be making their last stand at a chance for the playoffs in a game against the Miami Heat. The Pistons are on the second night of a back to back and the Heat are on one days rest.
The Heat were bad at the start of the year but then went on an absolute tear for about a month and now sit in the 8th spot for the Eastern conference. However they have started to fall back a wee bit lately with Dion Waiters out, having lost 3 of their last 4.
The Heat are a mish mash of castoffs and young guns who have somehow managed to become a fairly good basketball team, and regardless of if they actually manage to hold on in the playoffs or not, the fact that they are even in the conversation is damn near a miracle. They sport solid but not remarkable team efficiencies, with an offensive efficiency of 104.9 and a defensive efficiency of 104.1, what is remarkable is that they have a positive net rating out of that, which would suggest that their record probably should be better than it currently is given that they sit several games below .500. They are still lead by Goran Dragic, the speedy point guard is averaging 20 points and 5.9 assists per game and doing it really efficiently and shooting a remarkable 41.3% from deep as he has pretty much fully recaptured his All-NBA form that he surprised everyone with in Phoenix a few years ago. Hassan Whiteside isn’t too crazy, but he is very good, 16.9 points, 14.2 boards, and 2.1 blocks per game is nothing to sneeze at, and he does it in a variety of ways. He anchors their defense and pairs with Dragic to be 2nd most important cog in the Miami offense. Dion Waiters is hurt for the rest of the regular season so he will not be playing tonight. Tyler Johnson will probably be overpaid once his salary hike kicks in, but for now he has certainly made good on a surprising season last year that got him the paycheck, as he remains a rock solid swiss army knife guy, who may not be good enough to be a jack of all trades, but is maybe like a 9 or a 10 of all trades. He averages 13.9 points, 4 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game and is a fairly reliable shooter. Just a really nice player to have on your team. James Johnson is kind of a maniac, he is out of control at times, but he is playing some point center for the Heat and is doing all sorts of good things for them. Wayne Ellington is a fairly capable guard who can shoot and do other guard type stuff, but is not terribly remarkable. Josh Richardson has kind of crashed hard this year after a very promising rookie year, but he has been hurt quite a bit so he could still recover. There are a variety of guys who I just don’t know enough about to really say much with authority, Rodney McGuder is a guard, Will McGruder is big.
This team plays their tails off, and a anchored by a very capable pairing of Dragic and Whiteside, and everyone else goes in on a relentless drive and kick attack on offense and plays hard on defense.
Matchups to watch:
- Pistons vs Playing for their lives: Technically a loss tonight would not put the Pistons out of the race, but it would put them very near to the “need to win out and have other people lose a bunch” category of it essentially being over. If this team has any desire to make the playoffs they need this one, and they will need to play hard because there is no way the Heat will slack off. And on the flip side, if the Pistons win this game then they are just 1.5 back from the 8th spot, which will put them right in the mix down the stretch.
- Andre vs Whiteside: This is pretty obviously the premier matchup of this game, both guys are huge types who dominate the paint on both ends. Whiteside is a bit more refined and a better shot blocker, but Andre is quicker and a better rebounder. Andre has generally given it to Whiteside in previous meetings, and Andre will need to do that again.
- Pistons vs Bad turnovers: Turnovers really hurt the Pistons last night against the Knicks, and given how much the Heat love to run in transition, the Pistons will have to really take good care of the ball. Because if you let the Heat get turnovers they will turn them into transition buckets at a very high rate.
- Pistons vs Hitting some freaking shots: Even before the season began, I was worried about the Pistons outside shooting, but it almost has to improve from where it has been the past few games. If the Pistons shoot as miserably as they have lately, nothing else is really going to matter, they will lose.
- The running teams: If you are able to put aside the general sadness around the team right now, this should be a very fun game. With Ish at the helm of the Pistons and Dragic for the Heat there should be lots of running in this game. I don’t know if that will end up being good or bad for the Pistons, but it should be a high pace.
So in conclusion…
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
- Andre is beating up Whiteside.
- Ish is outrunning Dragic.
- The Pistons shooting regresses to the mean and they rain fire from deep.
Run for the hills if:
- The Pistons continue to build a wall with their bricks
- Beno forgets which team he plays for again
- The Pistons look tired
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
- The Pistons finally get some shots to go down
- Tobias Harris finds his form back and has a big game
- The Pistons ride hot shooting and good games from Tobias and Andre to a victory to re-enter the playoff picture.
- Pistons 113 – Heat 105
What do you think? Can the Pistons pull out a comeback and sneak in the playoffs? Will they get some shots to fall?