The Miami Heat fell to 11-17 at home for the season and suffered their fifth consecutive loss at AmericanAirlines Arena with a hugely disappointing 119-96 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night.
In yet another blow to their playoff hopes, the Pistons gained another full game in the standings above the Heat, who remain out of the playoff picture with this latest setback. Though the Heat had some decent stretches of inspired basketball, it wasn’t nearly enough to match the playoff-like intensity the visiting Pistons, who had played the night before in a tight win against the Atlanta Hawks, displayed for the entire 48 minutes.
Miami started well enough in the first half with a few nifty plays from Hassan Whiteside, the welcome return of Goran Dragic and some cohesive play leading to high percentage shots. A late first quarter run boosted their initial lead to 29-18 but the Pistons would go on their own run shortly afterwards and outscored the Heat 34-17 in the second quarter. They would proceed to hold on to the lead, mostly in double digits, the rest of the way.
By the second half, the Heat had already lost starter Rodney McGruder, who was replacing an injured Justise Winslow in the lineup, to a bruised right knee, Whiteside was a non-factor, and Dragic had little else in the tank in limited minutes after being out for two months. James Johnson also missed the game due to a sprained left shoulder.
Josh Richardson may have led the team with 22 points but they were largely inconsequential buckets with the Pistons continuing to boost their lead in the second half thanks to their bench, who outscored Miami’s reserves 66-35. Blake Griffin and Detroit’s long range shooting was a constant source of frustration for Miami’s defense, but it was their reserves that eventually wore the home team down. First it was Ish Smith who struck first off the bench, ending up with 22 points for the night. Luke Kennard came in and scored 17 points, most from deep, and then it was Langston Galloway who sealed the win early in the fourth quarter with an offensive barrage that turned a Heat deficit that was within striking distance to the early stages of a crushing blowout.
With the stakes this high against an opponent also battling for an East playoff spot it was a strangely quiet night for most of the Heat players. Aside from Dion Waiters scoring 17 points, Dwyane Wade’s 15 and Whiteside notching 13, no other player finished with double-digit scoring. No reserve beside Wade scored more than four points.
Though both teams may be close together in the Eastern Conference standings, they are both trending in precisely the opposite directions. With the victory, the Pistons have now risen to the 7th spot in the East with their sixth win in their last seven games. Meanwhile the Heat have only won twice in their last 10 games and are 1.5 games behind the Charlotte Hornets for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Thankfully, the Heat will next host the lowly Phoenix Suns, who are on a franchise-worst losing streak of 17 games, on Monday.