The Heat started off strong, with Hassan immediately succeeding in his new role of facilitator. However, it was the Pistons who’d take control early, feasting in the middle off of strong play from Boban Marjanovic in place of Andre Drummond. It also didn’t help that Miami couldn’t buy a bucket, missing five of their first six shot attempts.
They’d find their bearings around the 7 minute mark, getting a couple of stops on defense and converting on offense. Still it was unsettling that Whiteside had no answers for Marjanovic. I was worried about him matching up with Drummond tonight, but even with him out, Hassan looked like a pick-up player who didn’t want to play defense.
It was Kelly Olynyk who would bring the Heat back into the game, scoring eight straight points and allowing the Heat to take the lead. The Heat reserves looked great, really sparking things on offense and getting everybody involved. The Heat would lose steam towards the end of the quarter, making some silly mistakes (James Johnson showed a lot of rust) and missing easy buckets. They’d head into the second down five.
It was Wayne Ellington who’d get things started for Miami in the second quarter, with yet another trey. Josh Richardson would follow that up with one of his own to bring the Heat within one. The second quarter was largely back and forth, with multiple lead changes. Still it wasn’t without its positives, Goran Dragic looked renewed making great looks to set up offense and Josh Richardson continued his stellar play.
Though he looked rusty to start, James Johnson would get another chance with Hassan in foul trouble and looked a lot better, making good buckets and draining a three to end the half. The Heat would head into the third quarter up four.
Marjanovic continued to feast in the key to start the third. Whiteside would however find some offense early, scoring two great looks and maintaining the Miami lead. Unfortunately, the Pistons continued to find success on offense thanks to Reggie Bullock and Marjanovic. They’d eventually take the lead with the Heat not far behind.
Dragic would shoulder much of the offensive load, but would get some help from Kelly Olynyk to go on a 10-0 scoring run and take a seven point lead. James Johnson would come in and pick up where he left off as well, scoring well and being a beast on defense.
The Pistons would continue to hang around, eventually going on a 12-0 run to answer Miami and steal the lead. Josh Richardson drained a three to end the quarter and the Heat would head into the fourth tied 81-81.
Josh Richardson opened the fourth quarter with his fifth three of the game to take the lead. Luke Kennard would battle back for the Pistons, creating a sort of back and forth battle with Josh Richardson to keep the Pistons within one. Hassan got another chance and made his presence known right away with two big scores and a block. That didn’t stop the Pistons from hanging around though, with Miami’s interior defense practically nonexistent.
Miami made Dwight Buycks look like LeBron James at times, but some big buckets by Dragic, Ellington and James Johnson would keep the Heat in the lead. Luckily, Miami began to find a little bit of an offensive groove with Kelly Olynyk leading the charge. Despite Detroit hitting some big buckets of their own, the Heat would keep the lead off two huge buckets by Goran and Kelly.
With 23 seconds left the Pistons had no choice, but to foul. Josh Richardson would go to line and sink both to keep the game out of reach. It was a close finish and a huge win for the Heat.