Tonight at 7:00pm EST the Pistons will be hosting the Miami Heat at the LCA. The Pistons are on one day of rest after beating the Grizzlies, while the Heat are on the second night of a back to back after losing to the Sixers last night. The Heat are also playing their 3rd game in 4 nights.
The Heat have a pretty good record but it is unclear if that is something that will keep for the length of the season. On the year they still sport a pretty putrid offense that ranks 26th in the NBA by scoring 102.8 points per 100 possessions and a defensive efficiency of 103.9 points allowed per 100 possessions which is good for 7th in the NBA. Those combine for a net rating of -1.1 which is 20th in the NBA, right behind the Pistons.
Regardless of the fancy advanced stats, the Heat are probably going to remain at least pretty good this year. They have an excellent coach, a couple very good players, and several really good role players. They are an expensive team with a lot of veterans which makes it a little murky as to whether they can be any better than they currently are, but there are worse things to be than just pretty good.
They are lead by freshly minted all-star Goran Dragic who is scoring almost 17 points per game along with 4.7 assists. He is a speed demon who blitzes the rim at every opportunity with good size to finish when he gets there, while also being a capable defender. Hassan Whiteside left last nights game sick so he may not play, but he is a monster rim protector, can score pretty well, and rebounds the ball. Josh Richardson is becoming a very good defender on the wing, can shoot threes, and handle the ball. Dion Waiters is out for the season unfortunately so the Pistons can't just let him shoot the Heat out of the game. Tyler Johnson is a good swiss army knife guy on the wing but not a whole lot more than that. James Johnson is big and can handle the ball, he is shooting very poorly from deep this year though, so as long as he doesn't replicate his last outing against the Pistons that should help. Kelly Olynyk is a big white guy. Justise Winslow defends but doesn't do much on offense. Bam Adebayo looks like a nice young player. Wayne Ellington is one of the best shooters in the game.
This team knows how to play, they know how they want to play, and they have a lot of veterans who are good players. Altogether that is a combination that can win you a lot of games in the NBA. They are probably never going to be more than “pretty good” with this current group but pretty good is enough to give anyone problems in the regular season.
Matchups to watch:
The Heat vs. Blake Griffin: I'M SO EXCITED I GET TO SAY THIS ABOUT ANOTHER TEAM WOW. James Johnson is physical but he isn't a great defender. It isn't clear that the Heat really have anyone who can guard Griffin, and especially if Whiteside is not there to protect the paint, Griffin could be in for a big night.
Drummond vs. Whiteside: Assuming Whiteside plays, this is still going to be the biggest matchup of the night. Drummond has often gotten the better of Whiteside, but Whiteside has the ability to best him.
Pistons vs. Defending pick and rolls: They got killed last time by the Heat passing around traps to lots of easy corner threes. The good news is that Drummond wasn't playing and he should help a great deal with that.
Stanley Johnson vs. Being his best self: Quietly you are hearing whispers that Johnson may be figuring it out. He is bulling his way to the rim at will, destroying fools on defense, drawing fouls, and picking apart defenses with his passing. He may or may not ever learn to shoot, but I'll take the player he's been recently.
Blake vs. Getting into the offense: The Pistons kept it very simple for Blake in his first outing (with good reason) largely putting him in the post and letting him go iso. The downside is that when the Pistons tried to really run stuff they couldn't really get him involved. The end result was that he was either THE action or not really in it. It will take time to get him fully integrated but look to see him be a little more involved in ways that are not just isolations.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Griffin and Drummond throwing lobs to each other.
Drummond's presence locks down the pick and rolls that killed the Pistons last time.
The Pistons start to look more comfortable with Blake.
Run for the hills if:
The Heat's relentless drive and kick attack is still giving big problems to the Pistons.
Dragic is eating Ish Smith up on both ends of the floor.
There is visible confusion at times with Blake on the floor.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Drummond has a big game.
Griffin scores 30 points.
Goran Dragic is a problem for the Pistons.
The Pistons get big games from their star front-court and win a close but comfortable game.
Pistons 103 – Heat 95.
What do you think? Will Blake look more comfortable? Will Andre hit a few more shots?