Opponent Scouting: Miami Heat. (3-5)
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Tonight at 7:00 pm EST the Pistons will be hosting the Heat of Miami at the LCA. The Pistons are on one day of rest after losing to the Sixers on Saturday, as are the Heat after losing to the Hawks.
The Heat have pretty much been as advertised. They are well coached, play hard and smart, and have some good players. But they are lacking in high-level talent and don’t have great depth. They come into the game with the 14th best offensive efficiency in the NBA by scoring 109.9 points per 100 possessions, and the 15th ranked defensive efficiency by allowing 109.2 points per 100 possessions. That combines together for the 14th ranked net rating. They are almost remarkably average.
Josh Richardson is off to a great start and looking like he may actually make good on some of the potential that people saw in him the last couple of years, he is scoring 20 points per game, shooting nearly 40% from deep on huge volume, plays great defense, and is generally a great two-way wrecking ball. Goran Dragic keeps on chugging along, 17 points and 5 assists. He’s not great, but a rock-solid two-way player who is just good at everything. Rodney McGruder is off to a bit of a surprising start, but he’s shooting lights out from deep. Hassan Whiteside is back playing, he still blocks a lot of shots and can dunk.
Justise Winslow is a good defender. Dwyane Wade can still get some buckets but that’s about it at this point, which is fine. James Johnson is supposedly out. Kelly Olynyk is versatile on offense at either big position. Tyler Johnson is now absurdly paid, but he is a nice swiss-army-knife on both ends. Bam Adebayo has bounce.
The Heat are a relentless drive and kick team who defends with great effort. Their lack of talent and cap situation keeps their ceiling down but people will ignore that because Pat Riley.
Barring some significant change (like, say, a Jimmy Butler trade) the Heat won’t be much better than fairly average, but there is value in that. They will compete every night, they will be a tough out every night, and they are the sort of team that the Pistons have to beat if they want to show they belong above the chase for the 8th seed in the East.
Matchups to watch:
Drummond vs. Whiteside: This is another pair who don’t much like each other and the plus side is that Drummond usually owns Whiteside which is cool.
Blake vs. Limited opposition: Without the physical James Johnson, the Heat don’t have a lot of great options for defending him. Hassan Whiteside’s rim protection will give him some issues but Blake should get what he wants. The other side is that the Heat will probably have some smart things to defending him with.
Reggie Jackson vs. Getting right: There’s a lot that goes into it, part of it is just him hitting shots, especially from deep. Part of it is how he’s being used, he’s not a shooting guard no matter how badly Casey wants him to be. Either way, Jackson has to get right or the Pistons are dead in the water.
Pistons vs. Defensive rotations: The Heat are relentless in driving and kicking and will force the Pistons to work on defense. The Pistons have been very poor at chasing the ball against good passing this season, the thought of the ball finding Olynyk and Blake closing out is especially worrying.
Pistons vs. Mindset: I mostly poo-poo all the mindset and mental stuff. I do think there is a real mental block about being above/below .500. If the Pistons win this game, they are 5-4, which most of us would’ve taken before the season, with their next two games against the Magic and Hawks. They have a real chance to get back some momentum and keep good vibes. They lose this game and it pretty much sinks all the good feelings from the 4-0 start.
Pistons vs. Rotation: Kennard is obviously still hurt, Bullock may be out, supposedly Galloway is even a little shaken up. If Bullock is out then I hope they start GR3, but no matter what they are likely to have a goofy rotation.
Pistons vs. Hitting shots: Part of their issue is just not hitting shots. They have to do that because that’s how you win.
So in conclusion…
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
The refs don’t call a foul every time someone breathes on somebody.
Blake is mashing people.
Reggie Jackson finds his mojo back.
Run for the hills if:
Blake Griffin is having to close out on shooters a lot.
The Heat have a clever scheme to mess with Blake Griffin and it works.
The Pistons change their name to the masons with all the brick-laying they are doing.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Drummond lets out his frustration in a big game.
The Heat have no answer for Blake.
The Heat struggle to get anything going on either end, Pistons win comfortably.
Pistons 115 - Heat 107.
What do you think? Can the Pistons get the good vibes back?