That was the only time the Pistons led throughout the night.
The Heat dominated Detroit Tuesday, building an 18-point halftime lead and never looking back to defeat the Pistons 107-89. This win represented a much-needed victory for a team that had suffered an embarrassing loss to the 16-60 Los Angeles Lakers last week. Miami now remains very much alive in the hunt for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Dwyane Wade returned to the starting lineup after missing the Heat's previous two games. Wade got to the rim for a couple easy baskets early in the game and scored eight of his 16 points in the third period. He shot 5-of-10 from the field and 6-of-7 from the free-throw line. But one of Wade's best plays came midway through the first quarter -- when he drove to the basket and found rookie Josh Richardson for his first 3.
He would make three more shots from beyond the arc before the night was over.
Fresh of his honor of being named the March Rookie of the Month for the Eastern Conference, Johnson added 16 points off the bench on 6-of-9 shooting. Richardson's play is one of the most impressive storylines in the NBA right now -- a second-round pick gets playing time only because Tyler Johnson and Beno Udrih suffered injuries, and now he's a reliable spark plug off the bench. What a player Miami found in the second round of last June's draft.
Miami's other point guard, Goran Dragic, had four 3-pointers of his own -- three of them came in a three-minute span in the fourth quarter that prevented Detroit from even making the game interesting. But Dragic also drove to the rim for numerous nice layups; he scored 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field and dished out eight assists. Tonight, we saw the All-NBA Third Team Dragic -- he's moved in that direction since the All-Star break. And even when Dragic missed a layup, Hassan Whiteside was there to clean it up.
Whiteside matured before everyone's eyes Tuesday night. Erik Spoelstra yanked the young center for a few minutes in the second quarter before putting him back in. When Whiteside returned, he was much more focused, grabbing offensive boards and playing his usual stalwart defense. The 7-footer finished with 14 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field, 12 boards and four blocks. Whiteside had the stink face when he swatted his last shot attempt in mop-up time, almost shocked that a Piston player would attempt a shot in Whiteside's vicinity.
Spoelstra pulled Whiteside out,, to sit on bench next to Juwan Howard and watch Udonis Haslem. All part of an ongoing process.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 6, 2016
All in all, a great team victory. Luol Deng offered his usual energy in the four spot, scoring 12 points and grabbing eight boards. Joe Johnson scored 11 points and had five assists. Even Haslem made a baseline jumper on one end of the floor before drawing an offensive foul on Detroit's subsequent possession. The Heat just have to replicate a performance like this one throughout the stretch run of the regular season.
The Heat will host the Chicago Bulls Thursday at 8 p.m.