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Heat dominate third quarter, blow out Pistons

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Miami had seven players score in double figures.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat went into halftime with a five-point lead over the Detroit Pistons. The Heat played with intensity, but Detroit hung around — thanks to 11 first-half points from former Miami player Wayne Ellington.

And then the Heat scored the first 21 points of the third quarter. Yes, you read that correctly.

Miami went on their longest uninterrupted run of the season and had their biggest win of the year, defeating the Pistons 108-74 to improve to 32-35 on the season and move two games ahead of Orlando and Charlotte for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

The third quarter, which Miami won 33-8, was utter dominance. When Miami didn’t have a fast-break opportunity, they ran some great ball movement to find some open 3s. The game turned into a bit of a party — much in the way that it did in Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals, when the Heat blew out the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Heat played some of the tightest defense they’ve played all year in that third quarter. Miami employed some masterful defense on Blake Griffin, who had trouble even finding a clean look at the basket with some strategic double-teams.

Throughout the game, Miami out-hustled Detroit players for rebounds, winning the battle of the boards 51-37. And this was while the Heat employed a 2-3 zone that held the Pistons to 35 percent shooting from the field. Frustration also boiled over for the Pistons, as Detroit coach Duane Casey and Reggie Jackson each picked up technical fouls in the third quarter. Miami had a 30-point lead going into the final period.

Justise Winslow led the Heat with 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the field and five rebounds in 25 minutes of action. He started the game with a straightaway 3-pointer (the Heat scored the first eight points of the game and never trailed), but made his mark driving to the basket for floaters in the lane.

The Heat finished with seven players in double figures — Winslow, Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, Hassan Whiteside, Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo. It seems strange to think of Dragic — an All-Star for the Heat last year — and Whiteside as effective bench players, but they have played that way during this nice stretch for the Heat.

Whiteside continued his spry play as a bench player, finishing with 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field and 11 rebounds in just 19 minutes of action. To make another comparison to the 2012 Finals, Erik Spoelstra has stumbled into a good rotation after an injury. Back in 2012, Chris Bosh’s playoff injury led Spoelstra to move LeBron James to the four and Bosh to the center spot. And this year, injuries to Dragic and Whiteside paved the way for Justise Winslow to emerge as a point guard and Adebayo as the starting center.

Heat fans chanted “We want Haslem!” early in the fourth quarter, and Udonis Haslem checked into the game midway through the period. Haslem even had a pick-and-pop moment (teaming up with Waiters, not Wade) that recalled his best days in a Heat uniform. The crowd erupted when Haslem’s bucket went down.

It was that kind of night for Miami. The Heat will next host the Milwaukee Bucks Friday at 8 p.m.