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Heat blast Pistons 120-107 in season finale, will officially play Bucks in first round

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Precious Achiuwa had an impressive game in the Heat’s (meaningless) season finale.

NBA: Miami Heat at Detroit Pistons Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

On a night with few bodies available, the Miami Heat cruised past the Detroit Pistons, 120-107, in its season finale Sunday evening in Detroit, Mich.

Miami finishes its COVID-shortened season with a 40-32 record and become victors in 12 of its final 16 games. The team also finish the season 8-4 in the second night of back-to-backs. The Pistons, losing their fifth straight, close their season at 20-52 — their worst winning percentage (.278) since the 1993-94 season.

With the New York Knicks’ nail-biting 96-92 victory over the depleted Boston Celtics earlier today, the Heat were locked into the No. 6 seed for the playoffs prior to tip-off. Thus, Goran Dragic (back/knee), Andre Iguodala (hip), Kendrick Nunn (calf), Bam Adebayo (rest) and Trevor Ariza (rest) were all ruled inactive.

Jimmy Butler (back) also missed his second straight game.

Miami’s starting lineup consisted of Gabe Vincent, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Nemanja Bjelica and Precious Achiuwa. Both Udonis Haslem and Dewayne Dedmon, who were listed as active, did not see the floor; the Heat went seven-deep.

Six of the seven scored in double figures—the lone man who didn’t was Duncan Robinson, who finished with eight points on 2-of-4 shooting from deep in 19 minutes.

The Heat shot 55.4 percent from the floor, 38.4 percent from beyond the arc and 65 percent from the free-throw line.

Achiuwa notched his third career double-double, pacing the Heat with career-high 23 points and a team-most 10 boards on 10-of-16 shooting.

Bjelica had 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. His 21 points were four behind tying his season-high of 25 that he set against the Heat on Feb. 18, when he was with the Sacramento Kings.

Max Strus had 20 points — one short of tying his career high — on 7-of-16 shooting and 3-for-11 from 3-point range. Herro totaled 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting, dishing a career-high 11 assists. KZ Okpala recorded a season-high 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 34 minutes off the bench. Vincent had his first career double-double 15 points with 10 assists.

The Pistons, who went eight deep, shot 45.9 percent on the evening — including 31.4 percent from 3-point range and 72.7 percent from the charity stripe.

Saddiq Bey tallied a team-high 22 points on 7-of-21 shooting, but went just 4-for-15 from distance. Josh Jackson had 17 points in 24 minutes off the bench. Hamidou Diallo had 15 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the floor Sunday. Cory Joseph added 14 points, shooting 6-of-14 shooting, including 2-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc.

Tyler Cook tallied 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting, hauling down a team-high nine rebounds. Guards Killian Hayes, Saben Lee added 10 points apiece.

Back-to-back triples from Bjelica and Herro gave Miami the early 13-5 lead. Bjelica, making his second consecutive start, had three of the team’s first four field goal makes and 11 first-quarter points. The Heat made eight of their first 11 shots, including four of their first five 3s.

Robinson’s first triple put the Heat ahead 25-9 with 3:20 left in the first quarter, prompting a Piston timeout.

They led 32-13 at the end of the first quarter, shooting a blistering 72.2 percent, hitting six of their first eight 3-point attempts. The Pistons shot just 23.5 percent from the floor and clanked four of their five triples.

Jahlil Okafor’s and-1 conversion cut it to 45-31 with 7:10 to go in the opening half. Miami ensued with an 11-2 run — capped-off by Strus’ two-handed jam and Achiuwa’s left-handed layup.

Miami held a 69-47 advantage entering halftime. It shot 61.9 percent and 41.7 percent from deep, compared to Detroit’s 45.9 percent from the floor (40.0 percent from 3-point range).

Back-to-back baskets from Herro put the Heat ahead 77-55. Detroit made a brief run, cutting it to 13 with under five minutes to go in the third quarter, but Miami quickly widened it back to 21 after Bjelica’s second-chance layup conversion.

Strus’ triple improved its advantage to 100-72 with 10:47 remaining in the contest. Joseph’s steal-and-score cut it to 102-85, but Strus’ third 3-pointer of the evening re-upped it to 20.

The final score was relatively closer than it was for a majority of the game. The Heat won two of their three matchups with the Pistons this season.

Up next:

The Brooklyn Nets officially clinched the 2nd seed with their 123-109 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, so Miami will square off with the Milwaukee Bucks in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals. The first round officially starts on Saturday, May 22, but the specific dates and times of the series have yet to be announced.